Port Moresby, PNG – a new partnership to help save the lives of people bitten by venomous snakes was launched today in Port Moresby. The ‘PNG Snakebite Partnership’ is a three-year project involving the National Department of Health, the Australian Government, Seqirus Pty Ltd, and the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre, at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).
The project is intended to significantly improve access to antivenoms by combining a large antivenom donation, healthcare worker training, with a purpose-built distribution and product management system.
Seqirus Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of global biotechnology company CSL Limited, ASX:CSL) will provide an annual donation of 600 vials of snake and marine creature antivenoms to PNG. This is more than triple the amount of antivenom currently purchased annually by the PNG National Department of Health and the donation is valued at more than PGK2.5 million annually.
The Australian Government will support the management of the antivenoms and training of health workers on snakebite management. These will be delivered by the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (CCTC), a collaborative partnership between the UPNG and the University of Melbourne. CCTC operates the snakebite clinic at Port Moresby General Hospital and will offer two new postgraduate Master of Medical Science scholarships to UPNG students as part of the provision of comprehensive monitoring and evaluation services and health worker training under the project.
At today’s launch, Hon. Sir Puka Temu, PNG Minister for Health and HIV said “snakebite remains a very serious public health issue in PNG affecting many hundreds of people every year, and the O’Neill government is determined to improve access to life-saving medicines. Antivenoms are very expensive to purchase and we welcome Seqirus’ decision to provide this large amount free of charge.”
Dr. Lorna Meldrum, Vice President Asia Pacific Commercial Operations of Seqirus said “we hope to significantly improve access to antivenoms. This donation should mean there will be more antivenoms, where they are needed, when they are needed”.
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea His Excellency, Bruce Davis, said “we are delighted to welcome Seqirus as a private-sector partner in helping to realise a shared vision of enhanced health outcomes in Papua New Guinea”.
The partnership was announced today at CCTC’s laboratory at UPNG. More than 50 wild-caught and captive bred Papuan taipans and other venomous snakes are housed at CCTC so that their venom can be used for research purposes.
A first shipment of antivenom arrived in Port Moresby on 12 April and a further 140 vials are scheduled to arrive by the end of April.
The manufacture of Seqirus’ range of antivenoms is supported through funding by the Australian Government Department of Health.
The Papua New Guinea (PNG) Snakebite Partnership comprises the National Department of Health, Seqirus Pty Ltd, the Australian High Commission and the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (a University of PNG collaboration with the University of Melbourne).
The Partnership, which will operate for an initial period of three years 2018 - 2020, is intended to significantly improve the management of snakebite in PNG by combining an annual donation of 600 vials of antivenom with a specialised cold-chain distribution system (including product management and data collection), with health worker training and education.
Seqirus will provide an annual donation of 600 vials of snake and marine creature antivenoms to the Government of Papua New Guinea including support for procurement of cold chain equipment. Staggered delivery of the annual donation will be shipped to PNG on a quarterly basis.
The Australian High Commission will support the management of the antivenoms and training of health workers on snakebite management. These will be delivered by the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (CCTC), a collaborative partnership between the UPNG and the University of Melbourne. CCTC operates the snakebite clinic at Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) and will offer two new postgraduate Master of Medical Science scholarships to UPNG students as part of the provision of comprehensive monitoring and evaluation services and health worker training in the project rollout.
Currently the procurement of antivenoms by the PNG National Department of Health is undertaken commercially and is expensive, insufficient for the needs of the country and subject to uneven distribution. The donation of 600 vials will triple the amount of antivenom typically available annually in PNG.
The National Department of Health will provide data and reports on the management, distribution and usage from their Logistics Management Information System, mSupply, which will be used as a monitoring tool. Further, the introduction of a specialised distribution and management protocol based on usage data should help NDoH make informed decisions to ensure the correct antivenom is where it is needed when it is needed.
Snakebite in PNG
World Health Organization data states that around 1000 deaths from snakebite are reported annually in PNG. The species that cause the most snakebites are the Papuan taipans and death adders. Taipans are common in the coastal savannah grasslands of southern PNG and predominate in Central Province, NCD, Milne Bay Province, eastern Gulf Province and South- and Middle-Fly regions of Western Province, but are not present in any other regions of PNG1. Death Adders are present in all mainland Provinces and are the most frequent cause of envenoming and death outside of the southern coastal provinces.
PNG Snakebite Project Partners
Seqirus – Seqirus is a wholly owned subsidiary of CSL Limited (ASX:CSL), an Australian-based multinational biotechnology company. Seqirus manufactures and in-licenses, markets and distributes vaccines, antivenoms and prescription pharmaceutical products. It also operates one of the world’s largest influenza vaccine manufacturing facilities for seasonal influenza vaccines. Seqirus (and forerunner companies) have been supplying antivenoms to PNG on commercial terms since the 1950’s. www.seqirus.com
National Department of Health (NDoH) – the NDoH oversees and manages the public health system in PNG. Seqirus is making the antivenom donation to the NDoH and the NDoH has subsequently requested the assistance of the Australian High Commission with these products. mSupply, the Logistics Management Information System for NDoH, will be used to monitor the management, distribution and usage of the donated products. Data and reports produced from mSupply will enable NDoH to make informed decisions on forecasting and procurement of the products.
Australian High Commission - The Australian aid program in PNG is implemented in accordance with the PNG-Australia Aid Partnership Arrangement 2016-2017 and the Joint Understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea on further bilateral cooperation on Health, Education and Law and Order. Together, these set out the mutually agreed priorities and commitments for Australia and PNG to work together to improve development outcomes. In partnership with other donors, multilateral agencies, private sectors and faith-based health services, Australia supports the PNG Government to achieve a more effective health system. As part of this commitment the High Commission will be supporting the PNG Snakebite Partnership by commissioning their PNG health services provider (HHISP) to contract CCTC to perform services including antivenom donation management, data collection, plus first-aid and health worker training.
Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre (CCTC) - CCTC is a longstanding collaboration between the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne. Established in 2005 the collaboration facilitates research on snakebite envenoming and on the venoms of PNG’s venomous snakes, providing UPNG students with access to laboratory, clinical and fieldwork training. The CCTC operates PNG’s only specialist snakebite clinic in collaboration with Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH), and provides state-of-the-art emergency life support, diagnostic and remote retrieval services for up to 400 cases of snakebite each year. CCTC also provides a clinical toxinology advisory service to outlying health centres, hospitals and resource company medical teams. CCTC runs the only national level training course in Applied Clinical Toxinology anywhere in the developing world, and training modules provide PNG doctors, nurses and health workers with practical, resource-relevant skills to better equip them to treat snakebites and other animal bites and stings. In collaboration with the CCTC and UPNG, the Snakebite partnership will provide scholarships for two UPNG students to pursue their postgraduate studies in Masters of Medical Science.
For media comment please contact:
Australian High Commission + 675 709 00100, Public-Affairs-PortMoresby@dfat.gov.au
Anna Schulze (Seqirus) +61-438-084-045, firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie Kerin (Seqirus) + 61 417 436 329, email@example.com
For information about the PNG Snakebite Project contact:
Dr David Williams (CCTC) + 61-409-83-3482, firstname.lastname@example.org