SEATTLE — A joint venture with Save the Children and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has led to the development of a disinfectant product called Umbipro that would aid in the prevention of infections in the umbilical cord stumps of newborns, saving approximately 85,000 babies a year.
In May of 2000, five U.N. organizations—the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and UNAIDS—entered into a partnership with five pharmaceutical companies, including GSK, to address the lack of access and affordability of HIV medicines and to work on increasing people’s access to global health initiatives in developing countries.
Almost half of all mothers and newborns in developing nations do not receive skilled care during or immediately after childbirth. According to Biomed Central, lack of education often leads to infections of the umbilical cord stumps, especially in places where cultures believe in applying ash or the feces of cows and rats to the stumps to promote healing.
Umbipro does not need to be refrigerated and comes in a small bag which can be opened without scissors. This easy-to-use packaging makes it highly accessible to developing nations’ consumers. The gel’s main ingredient, chlorhexidine, is one of 30 basic and inexpensive drugs that every clinic in the world should have access to, according to a 2011 list released by the WHO.
A 2011 study by the National Institutes of Health and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the use of chlorhexidine-alcohol for preoperative skin antisepsis resulted in a significantly lower risk of surgical-site infection after cesarean delivery than the use of iodine-alcohol.
Umbipro has been endorsed by the European Medical Agency, whose main focus is improving global health for all nations. The endorsement marks a historic development in the distribution of this disinfectant in the global health industry.
GSK will initially produce six million sachets to sell. The company will not patent the design, allowing manufacturers in developing nations to make their own versions. GSK’s CEO Sir Andrew Witty set out a series of steps in March to aid in increasing access to innovative GSK medicines for more people living in the world’s poorest nations, including making its current and future patent portfolio freely available for use.
– Veronica Ung-Kono