Could drones revolutionize drug distribution in the most remote locations?

The Government of Malawi and UNICEF have been testing drones as a way of drastically cutting waiting times for infant HIV tests.

 

These drones are controlled from a mobile app and crucially; do not need a pilot on the ground.  Once the destination has been entered, the drone will travel along a pre-programmed route without user input.

 

The process has been described as being as easy as sending an email.

 

In 2014, around 10,000 children in Malawi died from HIV-related diseases and less than half of all children were on treatment. It currently takes an average of 11 days to get samples from health centre to a testing lab, and up to eight weeks for the results to be delivered back.

 

Quality care of these children depends on early diagnosis, which requires taking dried blood samples from the health centre to the central laboratory for testing.

 

The initial safety and cost testing flights finished on 18th March. The drones can carry up to 250 tests, or 1kg of samples, at a time.

 

Whitehall Training’s Good Distribution Practice online course, details the steps that need to be taken to ensure medicines reach the patient in the same condition that they left the factory – from cold-chain to anti-piracy techniques.

 

Poor infrastructure is probably the biggest single GDP challenge – especially where storage conditions as important.  If it does prove cost-effective, this drone technology has the potential to make a massive difference to some of the poorest people on the planet.

 


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