Government, through the National Health Insurance Scheme, has agreed to implement an agreement to make hydroxyurea free and accessible on the scheme for sickle cell disease patients who depend on that medication for improved health.
This is to honour the memory of the renowned world SCD specialist, the late Professor Emeritus Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, who for years, advocated for this intervention, and got the medicine introduced into Ghana as part of the treatment for sickle cell disease.
Announcing the intervention in a tribute to Prof. Ohene-Frempong at his memorial and funeral rites, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia said it was the right thing to do to ensure that the legacy of a man “who dedicated his entire life for the cause of patients of sickle cell disease is preserved".
"One of the major issues of Prof. Ohene-Frempong's advocacy was to make hydroxyurea available for all SCD patients. It is a good medication, but extremely expensive, and through his initiative, he got Norvatis to provide the medication for free in Ghana on a pilot basis through an agreement.
"As part of the agreement, government was to ensure that the drug was put on the list of medications that could be accessed on NHIS, and as the initial agreement neared its expiration, Prof. Ohene-Frempong pushed for the full agreement to be honoured. So with his unexpected death, it is proper to honour his legacy by fully implementing the agreement," Dr Bawumia announced.
What is hydroxyurea?
Hydroxyurea is in a class of medications called antimetabolites used for treating cancer by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in one's body.
It is also prescribed to treat sickle cell anemia by helping to prevent formation of sickle-shaped red blood cells.
The solemn ceremony marked by tributes and traditional rituals in Accra was the final farewell ceremony for Prof. Ohene-Frempong who died in the USA on May 7 this year, and had already been buried in the USA by the tomb of his late son, Kwame, in accordance with his dying wish.
Other dignitaries at the event were the wife of the Vice-President, Samira, representatives of the World Health Organisation, various international sickle cell disease organisations, the Sickle Cell Foundation, Ghana (SCFG) which he founded, old students of Prempeh College, among others.
Dr Bawumia said Prof. Ohene-Frempong was a man driven to do good not just for his family but mankind, and that his popularity in the world of medicine for his role in sickle cell disease interventions was ample testimony.
"Prof. who I later came to know more closely due to his passion for sickle cell disease interventions, was highly intelligent but very humble.
"His passion was admirable, and he was determined to ensure that right at birth, the status of a baby was known so as to help with his treatment and management.
"As a nation, we owe him a lot of gratitude, and though he has already been honoured with the Order of the Volta in 2010, we will ensure that his legacy lives on by continuing to support his advocacy. We will miss him dearly," Dr Bawumia said.
The new President of the Sickle Cell Foundation, Ghana, Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, said Prof. Ohene-Frempong did not only mentor people but also inspired them to ensure that the battle against the disease was appreciably won with the medical and clinical interventions, especially with the newborn screening.
According to Prof. Ofori-Acquah, though it was not the last of his impact, the decision by government to make hydroxyurea free on NHIS would be one of his significant achievements.
"It was a battle he fought in life and won in death, and the legacy of Prof. Ohene-Frempong, which was relentlessly driven, was about to begin, and across the rest of the world, people will come to know and feel the impact of the legacy of Prof. Ohene-Frempong," he said.