Whenever monsoon approaches, the only tension that revolves my mind is the way snakes hisses and roams around the place where I am domiciling. Last year, I spotted two snakes crawling from different sides. This year, I saw four snakes crawling from different directions. I always make sure that my younger brothers and sisters are inside their homes. I am in wait for the season to get over because many people are succumbed to snakebite during mid June and end of September. The situation is more tensive because there is no sufficient anti-venom in the country and around 150 people dies of snake bites every year.
This year, the government is not able to buy antivenom from India following the decline in its production. ‘We have published tender calls repeatedly and not a single company from India has applied for this’, reports Logistics Management Division, Department of Health Services. The department informed that first bid asking for the supply of the anti-venom was published but not a single application was received.
The department had also sent letters to 5 different Indian companies including Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing, Serum Institute of India, VINS Bioproducts Limited, Serum Limited, King Institute of Preventive Medicine & Research asking for the price of the antivenom. It was only after few months later; VINS Bioproducts Limited informed the department about the price to be twice in compared to the last 2 years. The company informed that the venom would cost Rs 1, 051.
The production of the antivenom in India is also not the same like yesteryears. Animal rights activists in India has brought the further production of antivenom into a halt after the team of the activists identified deteriorating health condition of horse because horses play an important role in the production of antivenom.
For the production of antivenom, the venom of various snakes in injected into a horse in small doses. The doses are increased gradually. The horses’ bodies start to develop antibodies against the venom after a month. The antibodies are then extracted from the horses’ blood. According to the sources, there are already many horses bearing the snake venom and the animal rights activists are not allowing to inject more venom in the horses’ bodies. Thus, the production is slow and the demand in India is also inadequate. Thus, the export of venom has become impossible. In this situation, the LMD is trying to purchase the venom from diplomatic assistance of World Health Organization, even under inflated prices.
The production of such antivenom is possible in Nepal too. ‘We can establish a plant in Nepal of the government assures a sizeable market and if we will start from today, the production of the antivenom will begin within 2 years ’, said Hari Bhakta Sharma, founder and executive director of Deurali Janta Pharmaceuticals. He added, ‘producing 40,000 vaccines investing more than Rs 500 million will be business of failure and thus subsidies are necessary.’
Yesteryears, the government had been providing the antivenom without charge through 42 outlets since 2000 in 26 districts. But the situation is not the same from now. The government should take actions at the immediate effect to save from this life killing reptile.