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Partnership with Drug Companies Creates new Market and Lowers Cost of Life-Saving Diarrheal Treatment in India

WASHINGTON, D.C.— More than 500,000 children die annually from diarrheal disease in India. Now, thanks to a partnership among four of the country’s largest pharmaceutical firms, AED, and USAID, zinc treatments that control childhood diarrhea have become affordable for low-income families and can reach the most at-risk and vulnerable populations.

With an initial investment of $150,000 by USAID, the Point of Use Water Disinfection and Zinc Treatment project or POUZN, which is managed by AED, has leveraged more than $1.3 million from the four drug companies for the development, marketing, and distribution of new formulated zinc tablets and syrups to control childhood diarrhea. The participating companies are Emcure, Dr. Reddy’s, Zuventus and USV.

In just one year sales jumped from 19,000 doses of the tablets to more than 1.2 million. Sales are expected to double by mid-2007.

“This national launch of zinc products in India is a critical first step to reducing a leading cause of childhood illness and death there,” said Margaret Burns Parlato, senior vice president and director of the AED Global Health, Population and Nutrition Group.

The use of zinc, along with oral rehydration therapy, is promoted by the World Health Organization as the best way to decrease the incidence and severity of diarrheal disease.

“No government can create or fund the amount of zinc necessary to address this disease over the long-term,” Burns said. “That’s why it’s crucial that these drug manufacturers have become involved. Their investment will make zinc treatments a sustainable option for years to come --and importantly will put the product into thousands of local shops where families can have easy access when diarrhea strikes.”

Through a public-private partnership, AED has worked with the four Indian drug firms to create demand for and market the zinc therapy along with accurate public health messages and treatment information. To date, more than 1,200 medical representatives from the partner companies have been trained on the benefits and promotion of the new zinc tablets and syrup in the treatment of diarrhea.

Additionally, medical representatives have reached more than 75,000 pediatricians and licensed general practitioners across India. The project has also created a team of state-based “Zinc Champions,” in collaboration with Emcure and leading Indian pediatricians who have promoted this new way of managing diarrhea to their colleagues and other health professionals.

AED ( is a nonprofit organization working in all the major areas of human development with a focus on improving education, health, and economic opportunities for the least advantaged in the United States and developing countries throughout the world.

Posted May 2007

Read more about the Point-Of-Use Water Disinfection and Zinc Treatment Project (POUZN) project


Christian Winger
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