Saturday, 29 August 2015

Agony of a mother with baby in the throes of TB

Ephraim began to cough at 18 months old. Later his feet also started to swell. His mother, Theresa, took him to a health centre where he underwent chest X-ray. The health attendants did not find any sign of Tuberculosis (TB) and sent him home with drugs that could only cure common cold. However, when he did not get better, his mother was referred to Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba Lagos for comprehensive diagnosis.

This time, Ephraim’s X-ray indicated that he had TB. Since there was no bed space at NIMR, he began treatment in one of the government hospitals in Badagry, Lagos. He stayed there for two months before being transferred to a facility close to their residence. Despite completing six months of treatment, his condition did not improve.

Worried, his mother went back to NIMR where Ephraim was diagnosed with MDR-TB after doctors tested a sputum sample. He began treatment, which included a combination of daily injections and pills.

For six months, Theresa traveled with Ephraim 57 kilometers daily under gridlock so he could receive the treatment.

“De wahala na transport money,” said Theresa in smattering Pidgin English. “De bus garage dey far from clinic so we dey hire taxi; to hire taxi cost pass bus,” she lamented. Theresa is a petty trader, and the family had difficulty finding enough food for Ephraim to take with the medicine. “How person go find money chop as ee don pass one year we dey hospital,” she explained. She believes food should be included with TB treatment, as well as support for families to generate income.

Ephraim represents one out of millions of children in the throes of TB. Though preventable and treatable, TB still takes the lives of 1.4 million people every year – and children remain largely unreached and uncounted.

Currently, there is no safe, effective vaccine to protect children from all forms of TB. Opportunity Advanced vaccine candidates are currently in clinical trials for proof-of -concept. Additional funding is needed to advance the vaccines to the final trial stage.

The only TB vaccine that exists, called the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, was invented in 1921. In most of the world, BCG vaccine is given at birth to help protect young children against the most severe forms of TB, including TB meningitis. However, BCG fails to protect children and adults against the most common form of the disease, TB of the lungs. WHO recommends that all children who live in countries with high TB rates receive the immunization, and saving even a small percentage of children with this vaccine is an unmitigated success.

Unfortunately, as children grow older, the effect of the vaccine wears off. Furthermore, children with HIV are unable to receive BCG vaccine because it can make them sick.

Prof. Innocent Ujah, Director General, NIMR, noted that the spread of TB is directly linked with poverty. Ujah who spoke to Newswatch Times said: “In order to end childhood TB, we must address poverty. Health is intricately related to the cycle of poverty. Poverty is a main risk factor for TB, and TB is a major driver of poverty. Children living in poverty like Ephraim are more likely to be malnourished, lack access to medical care, and live in overcrowded homes with little ventilation – all of which place them at higher risk of acquiring TB.

Corroborating with earlier views, the NIMR boss further observed that people living in impoverished conditions often cook indoors, exposing themselves and their children to smoke, which weakens the lungs and makes children more vulnerable to TB.

“The burden of TB in Nigeria was further made worse by challenges of HIV co-infection, drug-resistant TB and TB among children. ‘We are even going beyond multi-drug resistance TB cases as we are now having cases of Extremely Drug Resistant TB in Nigeria, “Even with all the efforts of the Federal Government in providing substantial human and financial resources to control TB in Nigeria, many people still do not make themselves available for treatment.

“This shows that we still need to reach out to those people in the rural communities where TB cases seem to be rampant and educate them to curb the spread of the disease. Education, nutritional support, and transportation are important tools for fighting both poverty and TB,” he said.

According to him, children living in poverty such as Ephraim lack access to adequate or timely health care due to geographic isolation, lack of transportation, and the cost of seeking care.

These barriers prevent children and families from accessing life-saving health services. Children with TB need more calories and nutrition in their diet; however children living in poverty suffer from malnutrition, not only leaving them vulnerable to TB, but also making treatment and care more difficult. Insufficient nutrition makes it painful and difficult for children to take their medicines and can cause them to forgo treatment.

Food support and transportation should be made an integral part of TB care in children and should not be seen as incentive.’

Dr. Oliver Ezechi, the Deputy Director Research & Consultant Obstetric gyneacologist, NIMR, during an interview with Newswatch Times also lamented that treatment of TB is hindered by lack of an effective vaccine.

He noted that the only TB vaccine, BCG, protects some children from severe forms of TB – including one that affects the brain – but is unreliable in preventing TB in the lung, which is the most common form of the disease.

Ezechi said: There is lack of political will, inadequate funding of programmes and research, and failure to include children in many National Tuberculosis Programmes (NTPs) are significant barriers to saving lives from childhood TB. The first steps to removing these barriers include prioritizing the use of available tools; integrating TB services with other health programmes; and, the development of child-friendly diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.”

Despite the disease being preventable and treatable, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 490,000 children get sick with TB, yearly worldwide. Up to 64,000 who are not as lucky as Ephraim to survive the disease die across the world every year. However, many experts agree these are gross underestimates. TB preys on the most vulnerable children – the poor, the malnourished, those living with HIV – and it causes an unimaginable burden to children and their families.

A report from ‘Action: Global Health Advocacy Partnership,’ said that there is little data on TB. According to the WHO, approximately 8.8 million people become sick with TB each year across the world. However, many experts estimate 10 to 15 per cent of these cases occur in children – much higher than the number actually reported.

Because children are difficult to diagnose using the standard microscope method, which is the only test available in many high burden countries, the vast majority of childhood TB cases go unreported making it very difficult to determine the true burden of childhood TB that exists in the world. There is currently no point-of-care diagnostic to detect TB in children or adults. Without accurate disease estimates for children, it is difficult to develop evidence-based policy, planning and management.

Meanwhile, the WHO is calling for ‘global solidarity and action’ to support a new 20-year strategy which aims to end the global tuberculosis epidemic.

The world health body decried that an estimated 1.5 million people still die of tuberculosis each year in the world. The disease frequently has devastating economic consequences for affected families, reducing their annual income by an average of 50 per cent, and aggravating existing inequalities.

“This is a matter of social justice, fundamental to our goal of universal health coverage. Each and every man, woman or child with TB should have equal, unhindered access to the innovative tools and services they need for rapid diagnosis, treatment and care,” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General bemoaned in her speech at this year’s World Tuberculosis Day (WTBD).

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 27, 2015.

Six journalists win Excellence Award for malaria reporting

Six journalists were on weekend won the maiden Excellence Awards by Malaria No More for their commitment to malaria reporting within the past year.

The winners include, Mrs. Appolonia Adeyemi, Health Editor, New Telegraph (print category), Ms. Linda Nengi Finecountry, AIT Rivers (television category), Mrs. Tosin Odusola, Health Reporter, Eko FM/Radio Lagos (Radio Category) and Haruna Godwin, This Day (runner up, print category) were announced during the event. The winners all received 100,000 Naira cash prizes while the runner up in print category received 50,000 Naira.

The awards which held at Zen Garden, Ikeja GRA, Lagos was attended by journalists from nine media houses, Corporate Affairs Manager, Total Nigeria Plc and Dr. Mike Okolo from Pan Atlantic University.

The criteria for being a recipient of the prize for malaria reporting are detailed, accurate and consistent articles on malaria with human angled stories.

Presenting the certificates were Mr. Albert Mabuyaku, Total Nigeria Plc., Dr. Mike Okolo, Pan Atlantic University, Mrs. Omowumi George, Lagos State Ministry of Health and Mrs. Charity Binka, AMMREN, Ghana.

A cross section of Attendees at the award ceremony
In 2014, Malaria No More partnered with 35 journalists across print, radio and television who are passionate about health issues in Nigeria; to drive the publishing of at least one quarterly robust news feature on malaria between 2014 and 2015. The aim is to increase the level of information available to the public about malaria and consequently change the response and behaviour of people to malaria.

Malaria No more, supported by ExxonMobil had trained journalists across three states in Nigeria; Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Rivers, to achieve wide spread reports from different parts of the country.

Furthermore to the capacity building workshops organized for the journalists, Malaria No More committed to instituting an award for ‘Malaria Reporting’ to recognize and celebrate the commitment channelled into malaria reporting within the past year.

Three judges from diverse backgrounds including Mr. Sola Ogundipe; Health Editor, Vanguard newspaper, Mrs. Itohowo Uko; Head ACSM branch, National Malaria Elimination Programme and Sarah Doyle, Malaria No More reviewed and judged the 27 entries that were received across the three categories.

The winners expressed their delight as recipients of the awards, unanimously agreeing that the awards is motivation to do more.

The Country Director, Malaria No More, Nigeria Mrs. Dayo Oluwole in her remarks discussed a road map for journalist engagement in 2016 which will be hinged on capacity building, raising the profile of malaria and resource mobilization. She also thanked the journalists for their commitment towards a malaria free Nigeria and further encouraged them to keep reporting about malaria. She is excited about the next edition of the awards and envisages a bigger platform with better rewards for the award recipients in 2016.

Malaria No More is determined to end malaria deaths. “We’re helping the world get it done by engaging leaders, rallying the public, and delivering life-saving tools and education to families across Africa,” Oluwole said.

Founded in 2006 by business leaders Ray Chambers and Peter Chernin, Malaria No More is working to create a world in which no one dies from a mosquito bite.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 27, 2015.

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria holds 10th nutrition seminar

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC held its 10th annual nutrition seminar tagged “Physical Growth and Brain Development of the Nigerian Child: The Challenge of Our Time” on Friday, August 21, 2015 in Lagos.

Key speakers at the seminar were renowned Professor of Pediatrics and President Pediatrics Association of Nigeria Prof Adebiyi Olowu; and Dr Anne Schaafsma, Senior Scientist, Global Nutrition Development, Friesland Campina Innovation Centre, The Netherlands.

The speakers presented research papers on the importance of nutrition for the optimum brain development of a child. According to them, brain development and mental health of a child is essential and it should never be neAglected. The first five years of development of a child is crucial and represents the period the child significantly needs essential nutrients that support overall brain development, especially Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

From left, the Managing Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Mr. Rahul Colaco,
Wife of the Lagos State Governor Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, FrieslandCampina WAMCO’s Corporate Affairs Director,
Mrs. Ore Famurewa, and Marketing Director Mr. Tarang Gupta at the 10th Nutrition Seminar of the dairy company, FrieslandCampina WAMCO in Lagos, at the weekend
Significantly, the speakers noted that children whose diet lack important fatty acids like Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been found to be at risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, unipolar depression and aggressive hostility. When infants are fed the appropriate food essentials, they become smarter, faster and happier. As a pointer, the resource persons reiterated that improved health and nutrition will lead to enhanced economic development.

Declaring the Nutrition Seminar open, the Wife of Lagos State Governor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, noted the lack of awareness by mothers on what adequate nutrition is and the significance of nutrition in the first five years of a child’s life. In view of this, Mrs Ambode called on Healthcare Practitioners to “take opportunity of the Nutrition Seminar organized by FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria to dialogue on new strategies, and new perspectives alongside the sharing of current knowledge on ways to improve the nutritional well-begin of the Nigerian child.”

Earlier in his welcome address, Rahul Colaco, Managing Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC, reiterated the company’s commitment to nourishing Nigeria with quality dairy nutrition; part of which includes providing adequate up to date researched information on child nutrition. According to Colaco, “FrieslandCampina invests huge funds in research and development of quality and affordable products to cater for the various needs of the consumer. So we are confident of our support to Healthcare Practitioners in ensuring proper child nutrition.”

The 10th Nutrition Seminar held across key cities, including: Ibadan, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu and now Lagos, reinforced the importance of public private partnership in responding to key national issues, particularly in the nutritional development of the Nigerian child. FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC will continue to partner with key stakeholders to help reduce incidences of malnutrition among women and children in Nigeria.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 26, 2015.

Combating world’s second deadliest disease

Adaora Ogbaru is a middle-aged woman, married with three children. She has never had any health complications since she survived a surgery from fibroid.

Suddenly, Ada as she is fondly known among acquaintances began to show signs of cough and wheezing. Her problem became worsened after what she thought was simple symptoms of cough was diagnosed as Tuberculosis (TB). However, the hospital authorities could not admit her to receive the treatment as there was no bed space. She was placed on the first-line drugs to treat the disease for eight months even as health workers were assigned to administer the drugs on her at home.

Ada defaulted from going through the treatment. She preferred to go behind the doors taking traditional medicines. According to her, she did not want people to know that she had TB.

Her case further got more complicated after she was back to the hospital and was diagnosed of multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB).

Ada is simply an example of thousands of Nigerians with MDR-TB. The bacteria that cause TB can develop resistance to drugs used to cure the disease. Multi-drug resistant TB fails to respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO said in 2014, multidrug-resistant TB was at “crisis levels”, with about 480,000 new cases in 2013.

It is a manmade problem caused by regular TB patients given the wrong medicines or doses, or failing to complete their treatment, which is highly toxic and can take up two years. Although all forms of TB are highly contagious, drug-resistant TB can be particularly challenging to control due to the longer treatment period and more costly drug regimes.

Over the next 35 years, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis will kill 75 million people and could cost the global economy a cumulative $16.7 trillion (£15 trillion) – the equivalent of the European Union’s annual output, a UK parliamentary group said recently.

If left untackled, the spread of drug-resistant TB superbugs threatens to shrink the world economy by 0.63 percent annually, the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis (APPG TB) said, urging governments to do more to improve research and cooperation.

“The rising global burden of multidrug-resistant TB and other drug-resistant infections will come at a human and economic cost which the global community simply cannot afford to ignore”, economist Jim O’Neill said in a statement, recently.

The prevalence of MDR-TB emerged several years ago in Nigeria and most of sub-Saharan Africa where weak health systems exist. In these countries, diagnostic facilities and drug treatment of MDR-TB are largely unavailable. Even in countries, where treatment is available, the treatment outcome has been poor. A prevalence survey by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2012 showed a doubling of the estimated overall prevalence of TB (the total number of people with TB) and a tripling of the estimated incidence (the total number of new cases), compared to previous estimates by the world health body.

In 2013, Nigeria diagnosed and reported 16 per cent of the estimated TB cases. In 2010, more than 7, 000 cases were reported with MDR-TB and nearly 17 per cent of TB burden were MDR-TB patients among newly infected and re-treated TB patients. Nigeria started MDR-TB treatment in 2010 after a successful pilot in drug resistant TB treatment centre at the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Oyo State. A year later, MDR-TB treatment was scaled up nationwide.

With increasing TB diagnosis, a growing pool of MDR-TB patients has emerged within the country. Current estimates by the WHO reveal there are at least 8,000 cases of MDR-TB in Nigeria, which, incidentally, has the third highest TB burden in the world. The WHO estimates that the prevalence of MDR-TB in Nigeria is about 1.7 percent among new TB cases and 7.9 percent among retreatment cases. Despite this high prevalence, facilities for diagnosis of MDR-TB are sparse and treatment largely unavailable.

Researchers at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Researcher, NIMR, who spoke in Lagos, are worried that Nigeria remains among 11 high TB burden countries that contribute 15 per cent of the three million missed cases of TB, globally.

Decrying that it is unacceptable that Nigeria ranks third among the 11 countries, they said despite control efforts by the Federal Government, Nigeria does not meet any of the Millennium Development Goals, MDG, 3 targets in reducing TB incidence, prevalence and mortality rates.

Dr. Oliver Ezechi, the Deputy Director Research & Consultant Obstetric gyneacologist, NIMR, who confirmed this, said that MDR-TB is one of the worst public health threats we are facing and we must ensure that we find, diagnose and treat cases as soon as possible, to avoid the spread.

Ezechi said: “TB is the leading cause of death among people with HIV, MDR-TB is a major contributor to their deaths. More worrisome is the human, financial and infrastructural resources needed to manage this category of TB. It is capital intensive, the option available is to prevent emergence of MDR-TB   through public enlightenment, inflation control of patients in all health care centres, early identification and prompt treatment.”

The fight against TB, the world’s second deadliest infectious disease after HIV, is also hampered by a lack of an effective vaccine, Ezechi lamented.

The only TB vaccine, BCG, protects some children from severe forms of TB – including one that affects the brain – but is unreliable in preventing TB in the lung, which is the most common form of the disease, he added.

Commenting on Ada’s case, the Deputy Director, Research, who is also Head, Clinical Sciences Division of the apex research centre in the country said: “There is need for patients to adhere rigidly to the first and second treatment and stop self-stigmatization. Every day we are increasingly noticing more people with TB and MDR-TB in our clinic.”

Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, Chief Researcher, Clinical Division, NIMR, said: “We have a new challenge in MDR, because the number of people with multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis is increasing, even as treatment for the disease is costly.

Commenting on how TB cases spreads and progresses to MDR like in Ada’s case, Onwujekwe said: “We are supposed keep TB patients in isolation in the hospital where we administer the first-line treatment for eight months and if successful, the treatment is continued for another one year at home. However, there are not enough facilities, bed, so we treat them at home.

The experience is that they often spread the disease before you know it. So workers visit and counsel them on how to conduct themselves in order to control the spread of the disease.”

Concerning fund, he said: “We are getting help, including; money and drugs from Global Fund, TB is not something that government can handle alone. The fight for TB is a global fight.”

The Director- General, NIMR, Prof. Emmanuel Ujah, said the death toll from the disease is still unacceptably high and efforts to combat it must be accelerated if the global targets, set within the context of the MDGs, are to be met.

Ujah who enumerated the ongoing strategies in conducting research on TB, said 2015 marks a transition from MDGs to post – 2015 development frame, adding that within the context, the WHO has developed a post – 2015 global TB strategy called “the End TB Strategy”.

The goal of the strategy is to end the global TB epidemic by 2035 with targets of 95 percent reduction in TB deaths and 90 per cent reduction in TB incidence. The strategy also targets a zero catastrophic costs for TB affected families by 2020.

TB, which spreads through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person, kills 1.5 million people worldwide yearly, according to the WHO.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 26, 2015.

Ranking of hospitals in Africa: Nordica ranks 21st best

Nordica fertility center Lagos emerged 21st in Cybermetrics Laboratory survey conducted recently after Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro Abeokuta, emerged the sixth best hospital in Africa and 2091 in the world.

Dr. Abayomi Ajayi
An online report weekend, said that in the “World Hospitals’ ranking on the Web” conducted by Cybermetrics Laboratory, Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro Abeokuta, emerged the sixth best hospital in Africa and 2091 in the world.

Nordica Fertility Centre Lagos came 21st in Africa and 6167th in the world. Bridge Clinic, Saint Nicholas Hospital, and Abuja Clinics also made the first 100 best hospitals in Africa with positions 43, 89 and 93 respectively.

Nordica Fertility Centre is a reputable and leading Assisted Conception Centre with top class medical facilities in Lagos, Asaba and Abuja, with the founder as Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, a consultant Obsterician and Gynaecologist, who is also the Managing Director of the clinic that specialises in In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and treatment of infertility for the couples facing fertility problem in marriages.

Nordica Fertility Centre was established in association with Nordica International, Denmark. Its services are world class, as we have direct access to research findings from The Institute of Human Reproduction, Sybion, Fruebjerguel, Denmark and also with doctors and technicians at The Fertility Unit of Herlev University of Copenhagen. This keeps people abreast of the latest development in the field of Assisted Reproduction.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 26, 2015.

PSN chides CMDs over payment of doctors’ skipping dues

• Urges EFCC, ICPC to probe finances of 55 FHIs

Pharmacists under the umbrella of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has alleged that some Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) have been paying the skipping dues of doctors through internally generated revenues of institutions under them, a development which they have condemned, saying it amounts to illegality, as such funds were never allocated by the National Assembly.

The association has therefore urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to audit the finances of all the 55 federal health institutions (FHIs) to fish out and sanction all liable CMDs.

A statement on Monday, signed by Olumide Akintayo, President, PSN, which also condemned moves to pressure the Federal Government to factor payments accruing from the skipping of salary scale to doctors in the Federal Health Institutions in the 2016 budget called for the probe of the finances of all the 55 federal health institutions to identify and sanction all CMDs found guilty.

The statement said: “For the records the umbrella body of some cadres even cites references of situations where some Chief Medical Directors have been quoted to be paying the skipping dues of doctors through internally generated revenues of such institutions, a development which amounts to illegality as such funds were never appropriated by the National Assembly in the first instance. We therefore take a position that the EFCC and ICPC must audit the finances of all the 55 federal health institutions to identify and as a prelude to sanctioning all culpable Chief Medical Directors.”

PSN alleged that the recent demand for inclusion of the backlog of skipping of salary scale to doctors in the Federal Health Institutions in the 2016 budget was faulty and selfishly motivated to favour only five per cent of health workers force, the doctors.

Left to Right: Olumide Akintayo, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi,President, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, Prof. Rahman Bello, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo, Chairman, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria at the official opening ceremony of the Pharmacy Education Summit held recently, at the Conference Centre, University of Lagos, Akoka,Lagos
According to the association, the request which they claimed was contained in a communiqué read by one of the 55 CMDs of the federal health institutions had no consideration for the welfare of other health workers apart from doctors.

PSN said: “The attention of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has been drawn to a recent communiqué advocating that the Federal Government should factor payments accruing from the skipping of salary scale to doctors in the Federal Health Institutions in the 2016 budget. This communiqué read by one of the 55 chief medical directors of the federal health institutions as usual had no consideration for the welfare of other health workers apart from doctors.”

The statement which further blamed the development which it described as ‘unfortunate’ on appointment of doctors as CEOs of federal health institution, quickly noted that the same CEOs frustrated plans for payment of some cadre of health workers who have were granted the concession to skip CONHESS 10 by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, in 2010.

It also decried the situation where some of the federal health institutions who have not paid allowances that have been due since 2010 are now bothered about payments which have only recently been approved through circulars in the last six months.

“After our usual evaluation we wish to posit thus: Our position that the appointment of doctors as CEOs of federal health institution is one of the major precursors of avoidable stress junctions is confirmed by this unfortunate development. As far back as 2010, some cadre of health workers have been granted the concession to skip CONHESS 10 by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, yet these same CEOs have frustrated the plans to pay these entitlements except in a few notable cases. It is embarrassing that while some of the federal health institutions have not paid allowances that have been due since 2010, they are bothered about payments which have only recently been approved through circulars in the last six months,” the statement said.

The PSN President further condemned Chief Medical Directors who have been alleged to be paying the skipping dues of doctors through internally generated revenues of such institutions, insisting that it is illegal as such funds were not approved by the National Assembly. Consequently, he called for their probe by EFCC and ICPC.

The PSN boss further urged both federal and state governments to find ways of dealing with unlawful strikes by Nigerian doctors, insisting that the Nigerian Medical Association and all its appendages are not trade unions and not entitled to enjoy the privileges of bargaining for privileges for their members not to talk of engaging in industrial disputes.”

“The federal and state governments must continue to appraise methodologies it employs in dealing with unlawful strikes by Nigerian doctors. The Nigerian Medical Association and all its appendages are not trade unions and therefore cannot and should not enjoy the privileges of bargaining for privileges for their members not to talk of engaging in industrial disputes”, Akintayo said.

According to him, the situation is worsening as resident doctors who are postgraduate medical students on training have are taking advantage of the situation and also embark on strikes.

“It is certainly worse when even resident doctors who are postgraduate medical students have the effrontery to go on strike because they are ideally under training,” he said, blaming the ugly development on governments’ leniency with the doctors.

“The apparent benevolence government often times has employed in dealing with this menace remains the incentive members of an otherwise noble profession have exploited ad infinitum,” he said.

The PSN President however warned that if government does nothing to arrest the incessant strikes by medical which he said was unnecessary, 95 per cent of health workers under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (AHPA) would in turn embark on perennial strike.

“In Buhari’s Nigeria, a need arises for the federal and state governments to nip in the bud the unlawful strike regimen of doctors. If this is not ensured through proactive measures immediately, the government leaves the otherwise lawful and well behaved members of JOHESU/AHPA who constitute 95 per cent of the health workforce in Nigeria to embrace the avoidable vicious cycle of strikes to pursue the liberties of its members which continues to be trampled upon,” he cautioned.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 26, 2015.

NAFDAC uncovers illegal factory with expired condiments

… Arrests managing director

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC,has uncovered an illegal factory within the Trade Fair Complex in Lagos loaded with various expired food condiments worth millions of Naira even as it arrested a 24 – year- old, Mr. Victor Ebuka Okeke in connection with the expired products.

This was sequel to a special raid and enforcement operation in some markets in the metropolis by officers of the Investigation and Enforcement Directorate of the Agency. The factory which was originally a one- room shop was used to stock, re-validate and distribute expired products, particularly, food condiments.   Some of the expired products discovered in the unhygienic factory include expired Maggi Sauce with manufacturing dates: 15/08/2011 and expiry dates: 15/08/2014, Amoy Dark Soy Sauce, Costa Corned Beef and Exeter Corned beef among others.

For the Costa Corned Beef, whether expired or not, the 24-year -old suspect,changed their labels to Exeter Corned Beef,which according to him, was to attract patronage to the Costa corned beef because it was a fast moving brand than the name Costa in the market.

Addressing journalists shortly after the exercise, the leader of the NAFDAC team and Assistant Director, Enforcement Operations, Mr. Shaba Mohammed, said the Agency has been on the trail of the alleged owner of the factory, following intelligence report on his activities in the market.
He revealed that the suspect, who also claimed to be the managing director of the factory, was caught re-validating the expiry dates of Maggi Arome sauce and Amoy Soy sauce smuggled into the country from Ghana from expiry dates of 2014 to August 2016.

According to him the products expired since August 15th 2014. “The suspect was also caught changing labels of Costa corned beef to Exeter corned beef,” he added

Mohammed who said the suspect had refused to give useful information regarding the whereabouts of over 902 cartons of expired MAGGI sauce already pushed into the market said the agency will be charging him to court for counterfeiting offences.

“We have arrested the suspect and also evacuated the remaining products in the illegal factory. We are also charging him for counterfeiting. Some of the products were not registered by NAFDAC. The products were smuggled in from Ghana. What we found on ground here cannot be consumed. We saw two drums filled with ordinary water which he uses to immerse the products and the labels will remove without any traces and are replaced with re-validated labels.”

Lamenting that most of the re-validated products have been pushed into the market for unsuspecting consumers to buy, he said consuming such products could lead to terminal diseases such as liver and kidney diseases which are currently on the rise in the country.

He further explained that the sauces are sodium- based products that could lead to hypertension if consumed.

The Assistant Director also hinted the suspect will be arraigned in court where the products evacuated will be used as exhibits against him. “Every single thing that is here is dangerous to human health.”

Fielding questions from journalists, the suspect, Mr Victor Ebuka Okeke who claimed to hail from Njikoka in Anambra State, said he was forced to re-validate the dates in order to recover the money he spent in importing the products.

“The goods expired after I have sold over 100 cartons. I don’t supply but people come and buy from me.” Asked why he was changing their labels,he said: “ When the products got expired in my hands , in order to recoup my money, I decided to change the products’ details.”

On the people he supplies the products to,he said retailers come to his shop to buy them just as he revealed that he smuggled the products from Ghana and had been in the business for over six years. “It is not a factory or a warehouse. All my products are from Ghana. I bought the labels from somewhere.”

It could be recalled that the Agency in its determination to ensure stringent punishment for counterfeiters is currently reviewing its laws, with a view to making convicted counterfeiters of drug and food products spend the rest of their lives in jail.

The Director-General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, had disclosed that the current law which stipulates a fine of N500,000 or 15-year jail term upon conviction, was inadequate.

He stated that the new law sought life jail term and confiscation of assets upon conviction, compensation for victims where the counterfeit product was found to be the proximate cause of severe bodily injury.

Orhii said the new law would also make counterfeiting a non-bail-able offence, adding that a whistle-blower clause was also included in the new .

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 22, 2015.

Simple ways to manage heartburn

Do you often struggle with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn? No matter what you call it, it all comes down to the same uncomfortable symptoms: belching, regurgitation, indigestion, nausea – even chest pain.

You may find it embarrassing or frustrating to talk about your heartburn symptoms, but you’re far from being alone in your discomfort. It’s estimated that 14 to 21 per cent of American adults are affected by heartburn and together they spend $14 billion annually to treat it.

If it is more than occasional heartburn – your GERD symptoms can be serious. The acid and digestive enzymes from the stomach that back up, or reflux, into the esophagus can damage the tissues in the esophagus and in the adjacent organs such as the mouth, throat, voice box and lungs. Left untreated, heartburn can lead to complications – esophageal ulcers, esophageal strictures and esophageal cancer.

If you have symptoms of heartburn, it’s important to learn everything you can now – so you can partner with your doctor effectively, ask the right questions and understand the answers.

Can drinking milk help my heartburn?

You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it’s true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, it’s a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skim milk and don’t overdo it. Drink no more than eight ounces of skim milk at a time – as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.

Is chewing gum an effective way to get heartburn relief?

It may sound strange, but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus. When you pick a pack of gum, just make sure it’s sugar-free so you also protect your teeth.

A few simple strategies can help soothe the burn of heartburn:

  • Watch what you eat. Avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods. Eat more fiber to keep your digestive tract moving and healthy. Also reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
  • Watch when you eat. Push away the plate at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
  • Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
  • Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
  • Keep a diary. Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
  • Toss the cigarettes. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and so many other health reasons, it’s always the perfect time to quit.
  • Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
  • Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about six inches. Don’t bother raising your pillows, though – it’s not effective for heartburn.
  • Work it out. Exercise may protect against the acid reflux that leads to heartburn.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 22, 2015.

Shortness of breath could indicate presence of allergic asthma – Physician

An Abuja-based physician , Dr Okezie Emenike, has said that shortness of breath experienced by some people could be an indication of allergic asthma. He told an in online news agency in Abuja on Wednesday, that allergic asthma was the type caused by allergy, which is also known as allergy induced- asthma.

According to him, allergy asthma occurs when a patient’s immune system overreacts to the presence of some harmful substance known as an allergen. He said that allergic asthma was the most common type of asthma, which often times runs in the family with the history of asthma and other allergies, such as hay fever. He said that some people may develop breathing problems whenever they inhale allergens that usually occur when the airways swell as part of an allergic reaction.

Emenike, however, attributed pollen, pet dander as well as dust as factors that could predispose one to allergic asthma. He also mentioned that shellfish, eggs, peanuts, fish and milk could trigger the development of the condition in some people. The medic stated that smoking, smoke from a fireplace and incense were some other causative factors to the condition.“Air pollution, cold air, strong chemical odours as well as perfumes could pose a risk of developing the condition. “Air fresheners, dusty work place, grasses and weeds could also irritate the body, which could lead to the condition,” he said.

Besides, Emenike said that allergic asthma was not preventable, stating that avoiding substance that triggers it was key. He said that treating allergic asthma involves the treatment of allergy, the asthma and most times both. He said that the treatment also include antihistamine medication in order to reduce the immune systems allergic response.

Emenike recommended that allergy shots be administered where allergy symptoms are more severe in order to treat the condition. He also suggested the use of inhalers in preventing asthma as well as the fast-acting inhaler used in the treatment of asthma symptom. He enjoined patients with the condition to use medications such as nasal sprays and eye drops to ease allergy symptoms in treating allergic asthma.

The physician cautioned that allergic asthma could result to serious complications such as anaphylaxis. The complications, if left untreated, could cause life threatening conditions such as low blood pressure, among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 22, 2015.

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