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When I joined Octapharma in 2002, our strategy in the region was to promote the concept of quality for plasma products and differentiation between the available brands for the benefit of patients in terms of efficacy, safety, commitment and availability. We launched an educational initiative for doctors and pharmacists throughout the region called the Plasma Quality Program. The objective of the program is to increase awareness of best practices in plasma products and the international guidelines for the selection of high quality products. The program is approved by the Council for Health Specialists and participants are credited with continuing medical education (CME) hours.
The major trend of the countries in the GCC region for plasma products is the tender market. There is a large tender which covers the demand for these products in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. We were successful in improving the guidelines of this tender by implementing international quality standards, which has had a very positive impact on patients. The greatest challenge in the region is availability of plasma products to fulfil continuous increases in demand. In 2013, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) added octaplas®, our pharmaceutically licensed, standardised solvent/detergent treated human plasma, to its Central Formulary of Pharmaceutical Products, allowing us to sell octaplas®. to all MOH hospitals. This is of great value for patients because it provides them with a reliable and continuous supply of octaplas®. with all the clinical advantages it has over single donor fresh frozen plasma (FFP). This is especially important in treating thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and factor V deficiency patients.
I feel for the families and the people who require plasma products. Just like bread, food and water, these products are essentials for life. Imagine you are a parent and you give your son a home, you provide food and water for him. You give him all he needs to live and be healthy, but there is something essential which you cannot give him. Without plasma products lives can become very miserable.
Just before the Eid holiday, I received a call from a mother of a child with haemophilia B. The boy had returned from school with bleeding in his knee. The mother was crying. She was desperate – she needed factor IX for her son. As a human being, when you get a call like that there is nothing else you can do except drop everything and work hard to secure the medication. Understanding the urgency of this case, we immediately began coordinating a solution and instructed the mother how to acquire octanine®F for her son.
Later that night, the mother sent me a picture of her son and he was laughing. I felt so happy knowing that the patient was doing well. In this region haemophilia is treated on demand rather than prophylactically. I believe that introducing prophylactic and home therapy treatment will greatly contribute to a much higher quality of life for all haemophilia patients. When I look at that photo of the boy laughing, I feel that I really did something good. The mother was not in the picture, but I am sure that she was happy and smiling too.