In sickness and in health

When a world’s health is at stake it helps if the equipment provided for hospitals is reliable. Reassuringly, Becton & Dickinson have been first class medical products for over a century

When you’re a hundred years old, may be you need to think about slowing down a bit? This isn’t something Becton & Dickinson (BD) would even contemplate. It’s been proudly moving with the times for decades and thrives on bringing modern healthcare to the people.

Impressive century

The company was founded way back in 1897—among the oldest that TABJ has had the pleasure of reviewing. The men at the helm were the splendidly-named Maxwell W. Becton and Fairleigh S. Dickinson. As all good partnership should be, the agreement was sealed with a good, honest handshake—how times have changed!

Since those early days its headquarters have been based in picturesque Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. The company is a leading medical technology outfit that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices, instrument systems and reagents. Over the last 115 years it has gradually developed into a formidable institution and is now a company of global standing.

“BD is dedicated to improving people’s health throughout the world. It is focused on improving drug delivery, enhancing the quality and speed of diagnosing infectious diseases and cancers, and advancing research, discovery and production of new drugs and vaccines,” explains CEO Peter Mehlape.

Heal the world

BD’s capabilities are instrumental in combating many of the world’s most pressing diseases and, as such, it employs approximately 29,000 associates in more than 50 countries throughout the world. Healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry and the general public are all served by BD.

The three core areas of the operation are medical, diagnostics and biosciences. BD is proud to develop technologically advanced products, from new drug discoveries to drug delivery. Between these vital stages are a host of services that help diagnose, treat and monitor infectious and non-communicable diseases.

“BD approaches its business in terms of the impact it has on people’s health, thus it considers partnerships with leading healthcare advocates, experts, funders, governments and grass-roots players, to be among its greatest achievements,” enthuses Mehlape.

Many of BD’s products, solutions and collaborations were born out of Africa’s very specific needs, which gave rise to its pioneering work in health system strengthening. BD is championing efforts to build health infrastructure and capacity in Africa. About 10 years ago, infectious diseases in Africa were the main focus of attention from global and African public health experts. This focus has shifted in the past two to three years towards non-communicable diseases, which are fast overtaking communicable diseases as the main burden of disease on the continent.

Champions

The company has been instrumental in helping funders, policy makers and health providers realise how this will affect fragile health systems and what needs to be done to respond adequately to the new threat of NCDs, while sustaining efforts to manage HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria.

BD has always been about technological breakthroughs. In 1924, BD manufactured the first insulin syringe – even before insulin became available. In 1980, BD introduced the first automated mycobacteria system for TB (the BD BACTEC 460TB)—still the gold-standard in TB diagnostics and a development highly relevant to today’s TB/HIV dual epidemic in Africa.

As a result of its ground-breaking work and the longevity of its efforts, BD has a strong presence throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with representation offices, sales support, technical services and application training for the entire product range. In addition, BD works with a network of high-quality, professional distributors.

Africa unites

Out of Johannesburg, BD has succeeded in expanding into other African markets in a sustained and customer-oriented way. The company has technical specialists who answer scientific queries regarding the products and services, while its fully trained sales specialists have a full understanding of the laboratory equipment, and offer a wide range of support and advice. They also provide guidance on issues such as healthcare, worker and patient safety, product optimisation and patient comfort.

Established in 2000, the BD office supporting the east Africa region is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Its highly competent team in this region offers sales, marketing and technical support for BD products and equipment throughout Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burundi and the Seychelles. BD West Africa, located in Accra, Ghana, also supports operations in 22 countries in the region.

The Ghana Health Service, acting through its National AIDS and STI Control Programme and in collaboration with BD in West Africa, successfully inaugurated the Ghana National Centre of Excellence for laboratory training in March 2008. Over 100 laboratory workers from the region have been successfully trained to date.

“Constant listening to the voice of customers keeps the innovations and new product developments coming,” concludes Mehlape.

When government, funders, academics and clinicians look for a partner to implement solutions to specific health challenges in Africa, BD has constantly been the ‘go-to’ partner. History has been a witness to that.