Friday, 21 November 2014

Study links high-fat diet to slow developing brain

By: Chioma Umeha

A small new animal study out of Spain, has shown that adolescents who consume a high-fat diet risk long-lasting effects on learning and memory. In research presented at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, recently, scientists out of CEU-San Pablo University in Madrid, found that adolescent mice fed a high-fat diet displayed significantly impaired spatial memory compared to a control group that consumed the same amount of calories but less fat, as well as a group of adult mice put on the same diet. Research authors speculate that the brain’s memory centres are more susceptible to the effects of a high-fat diet during adolescence, given the amount of hormonal changes at this time. 

For the study, scientists put 15 male adolescent mice on a high-fat diet over an eight-week period, in which 45 per cent of calories came from saturated fat. The control group of 15 mice was put on a conventional diet with the same number of calories. A third study group of adult mice was created to test the effects of a high-fat diet in animals later in life. Groups were placed in an open, but walled box with a single chamber containing two toys and allowed to explore the space for 10 minutes. Though already familiar with the boxed environment and one of the toys, the other was new for the mice. The experiment was conducted two more times – after a one-hour and 24-hour interval – and the new toy placed in different spots. Researchers recorded how long it took the rodents to find the new object. 

What they found was that adolescent mice that received a high-fat diet took longer to find the new object compared to their counterparts. Moreover, the damage didn’t reverse after the animals were put on a reduced-calorie diet, suggesting the changes could have long-lasting effects, authors said. Meanwhile, another animal study also found a possible link between high-fat diets and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children by affecting dopamine metabolism in the brain. In the study from the University of Illinois, mice fed a diet high in fat displayed anxious behaviour as well as learning and memory deficiencies.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2013.
How NAFDAC sealed six illegal food production facilities

By: Chioma Umeha

Last week’s crack down of six organized illegal food production facilities at the Cemetery or Eziukwu Market in Aba, Abia State, and arrest of 14 persons by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) sends a warning signal to job seekers, landlords or property owners. This latest breakthrough by NAFDAC led to the closure six organized illegal food production facilities and arrest of 14 persons, mainly young persons, who were working there, where different brands of food products-among which were popular brands of Custard Powder were being counterfeited. The incident shows that parents and guardians should be wary of where their wards work, just as landlords are to be cautious of persons and companies they let the properties to as well as the kind of business done in their premises. 

The Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, has already assured that his agency was going to collaborate with Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, whose flagship product, Gold’s Custard has been a subject of faking and counterfeiting, to flush out the fake products from the market, urging consumers to cooperate with them. Orhii spoke last Friday, during the parade of the 14 arrested persons and samples of the fake different brands of counterfeit food products including, Custard Powder, in the company’s corporate head office, Oshodi, Lagos. The NAFDAC boss noted that the new strategy of the agency to fish out those who deal in counterfeit and substandard regulated products has begun to yield results with the successful discovery of the organized illegal food production facilities. He therefore warned stakeholders and general public to demonstrate positive attitude and collaborate with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in the fight against counterfeit regulated products. 

Orhii stressed the importance of stakeholders and general public, especially the market unions, to to work closely with NAFDAC in this fight. “We have extended our hand of collaboration to all our stakeholders in this regard. I also would like to call on the general public, especially the market unions to work closely with NAFDAC in this fight,” he said. According to him, the latest breakthrough was made possible through collaboration with Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, who reported that their flagship product, Gold’s Custard has been a subject of faking and counterfeiting with losses of several millions of Naira monthly. This is apart from the attendant injuries these counterfeit products cause on unsuspecting Nigerians who use them, Orhii said. Following a directive from his office, the DG said the Federal Taskforce immediately swung into action in close collaboration with Lisabi to investigate the case and bring the culprits to book. Through investigations, “it was discovered that different brands of food products among which were popular brands of Custard Powder were being counterfeited and sold in the markets. Further investigation led us to the Cemetery or Eziukwu Market in Aba, Abia State where an organized illegal food production facility was located,” the NAFDAC DG said. 

The DG further said that surveillance activities were carried out in April and May this year, adding; “reports of the surveillance activities were worrisome and needed prompt intervention.” “For example, truckloads of the fake Gold’s custard were seeing being dispatched, the streets and close within the market have no names and numbers, and a building serving as a manufacturing premise was identified and has an American Flag hoisted on it to distract attention,” he said. Giving details of the agency’s operation, last Friday, Orhii said: “Yesterday, the Federal Taskforce struck. The operation which lasted for about two hours started by 1:30 pm and ended by 3:45 pm leading to the closure of six illegal manufacturing factories located on the first floor of the three storey building inside the market and arrest of fourteen suspects was made.”  

Those arrested are: Akabueze Emmanuel, Ngozi Moughalu Cecilia, Chisom Ikem, James Ndobueze, Chika Emmanuel, Chinyere Nsofor, Victoria Chibueze, Nnenna Onuwa, Oluchi Ukpai, Onuoha Chidinma, Nnnena Chukwu, Ogechi Chukwu, Anurika Iloanya and  Nwadike Emmanuel The items discovered were: bags of uncertified industrial corn starch, gas cylinders, sealers, generating sets, promotional items such as notebooks, weighing scales, spoons among others. Other items are finished products of popular brands of Custard Powder which include: Gold’s Custard Powder    , 100 buckets x 2kg; Gold’s Custard Powder, 16 cartons x 2kg; Gold’s Custard Powder, 200 x 500g; Gold’s Custard Powder, 50 x 80g, Gold’s Custard Powder Sachet’s , five bags x 24 x 18 and Egg Banana custard, 2kg x 100. 

The DG further said that the operation suffered some hitches prior to its success. His words: “The operation was not without few incidences as attempts were made by the mob around the scene to cause confusion that will lead to breakdown of law and order, which may eventually result in the failure of the operation, but for the mature conduct of all members of the combined team.” He reiterated his stand on zero tolerance to counterfeiting in line with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. Orhii pledged to ensure appropriate enforcement of the breach of the agency’s regulatory provisions, including, demolishing of any building that is used as a manufacturing or warehousing facility for counterfeit products. 

“We will not relent in this effort till we bring the level of counterfeit products to the barest minimum in this country,” he said. Reacting, the Managing Director, Lisabi Mills (Nigeria) Ltd, Mr. Shex Ladipo, commended NAFDAC efforts in the fight  against fake drugs.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 27, 2013.
Cerebral palsy is not infectious – Gbadebo

By: Chioma Umeha

Mrs. Alaba Gbadebo, is Co- founder, Benola – a cerebral palsy initiative, and the wife of Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Femi Gbadebo (Rtd), OFR, founder and Chief Executive Officer, of the initiative.  Mrs. Gbadebo, is mother of 17-year-old boy, Olaoluwa, who is living with cerebral palsy. Recently, when Benola marked the 17th birthday of Olaoluwa, She shared her experience with some journalists concerning cerebral palsy and its management. CHIOMA UMEHA (Health Editor) was there. EXCERPTS: 

Mrs Alaba Gbadebo
Co-founder, Benola
Many describe cerebral palsy as a deadly disorder, describe how it manifests based on your experience? 
Cerebral Palsy is the most common childhood physical disability. It is a permanent physical condition that affects the movement. It describes a group of disorders of the development of the movement and posture, causing activity limitation and that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in developing foetal or infant brain. The incident in developed countries is approximately 2.25 per five thousand births. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder. While severity varies widely, cerebral palsy ranks among the most costly congenital conditions to manage.

Cerebral palsy is an “umbrella term” in that it refers to a group of different conditions. It has been suggested that no two people with CP are alike even if they have the same diagnosis. Cerebral palsy is divided into four major classifications which describe the different movement impairments. These classifications reflect the area of brain damaged. The four classifications are: Spastic; Athetoid; Ataxic and Mixed. Spastic cerebral palsy is further classified by topography, dependent on the region of the body affected. These typography classifications include:  hemiplegia in which one side is being more affected than the other; diplopia in which the lower body is being more affected than the upper body and quadriplegia in which all four limbs are affected equally. Cerebral palsy cannot transfer from one body to another. So people should look after these patients with affection and not hatred or sarcasm. Many scholars acknowledge that ataxic, Athetoid, spastic and mixed are the relevant forms of cerebral palsy; however, various conditions and subtypes may exist. Also, a common misnomer is that CP causes mental retardation when in fact; only individuals whose brain damage is associated with the hippocampus actually had these difficulties. While learning difficulties and CP may occur, it is common for individuals with CP to have normal lives when their lives are managed coherently and effectively. This means that if a person with CP can focus on scholastic achievement or improving social skills, rather than on when they will get their next treatment, that individual is going to fare better than when the necessary assistive technology is not available. 

Why does CP occur? 
Since the last several decades, there have been considerable advances in obstetric and neonatal care. Health experts care for unborn babies and premature infants better than before. However, despite these important advances in medical care, up to 1 in 250 children are born with some form of cerebral palsy (CP). 

Are there genetic forms of cerebral palsy? 
Many children are thought to develop CP as a result of unavoidable complications during delivery or related to extreme prematurity or maternal infection. For those without this history, an MRI scan can provide valuable clues that help explain a child’s CP (showing a stroke that occurred during development or a region of the brain that didn’t form correctly, for example). Although many children have a readily identifiable cause for their CP, for most children the cause of their CP is something of a mystery. Researchers have recently, shown that for a substantial proportion of children with CP, their condition may be genetic. More recently, a research group has identified a new gene that leads to CP when mutated. How substantially single gene mutations contribute to CP is controversial and subject of ongoing research. However, there are limits of current knowledge. Despite recent advances in genetic technology and capabilities, there is still a lot of room in the knowledge about the role of genetic factors in a given child’s CP. 

If CP doesn’t run in one’s family, could ones child’s condition still be genetic? 
For many genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, there is no prior history in the family. Instead, both parents are carriers of the condition, and each of their children has a 25 per cent chance of inheriting the disease. It is rare for several family members to have CP. Studies of families with multiple children with CP has formed the basis of what we know about CP genetics today. 

What are the unique emotional challenges of accepting a child that has been diagnosed of CP? 
The developmental challenges which a child with CP faces vary tremendously. Even at the time of diagnosis it’s not necessarily clear what individual challenges your child may or may not face. And what you hear may not even prove accurate. This means that as a parent it may be unclear what you will need to accept. Parents of children diagnosed with CP respond with varying emotional state of hope, despair and relief. It is usually tough and confusing. Several parents suffer emotionally for long because what they are being asked to accept may be challenging. The ground levels out with time. As your child gets older, you learn more about yourself, your child, this journey, and you become better equipped to weather the storms. You will look back and lift others up who are losing their balance. 

How do you explain disability to a child? 
Whether you are explaining a disability to a child who has one or to a non-disabled child, the following key concepts should be kept in mind. Compassion: Show a child you fully understand what a hurtful thing a disability can be. Communication: Explain as much as you possibly can about the disability so a child does not become frightened by the unknown. Comprehension: Make sure a child understands that the disability is never the child’s fault. Competence: Convey the sense that even though a disability is very hard to deal with, a child with a disability will make progress and learn to do new things. It is important to know how to address a child with a disability and those without a disability. For instance, when speaking to a child between two and four with a disability, you could say: “We don’t know why, but sometimes children are born without everything their bodies need, and that’s what happened to you. That means you’re going to have to work harder and we’re going to work hard to help you.” For those between the ages of five and eight with a disability, you should try to empathise with them. For instance, you could say the following: “It’s really tough when your body can’t do everything you want it to do. It’s not fair that you have to work so hard to make your body do what you want. But everyone has some activities that are easy for them, and some that require more effort. You have this problem, but you’re lucky to have lots of talents, too.” For those between the ages of nine and twelve with a disability, you should try to empathise with them. For instance, you could say the following: “It’s a bad incident for you to be born with a disability that makes things harder. But remember your abilities, too and work to strengthen them. It’s natural sometimes to feel angry but try not to give up.” However, if you are speaking to a child between the ages of two and four without a disability, try and encourage them to identify with others with disability. You could explain thus: “Most children like you are born with everything they need, but sometimes children are born without everything they need. Sometimes they need crutches or wheelchairs or braces to help them do what you do naturally.” If you are speaking to a child between the ages of five and eight without a disability, you could try to provide details for them on why they have to have compassion with others with disability. For instance, you can appeal to their conscience this way: “Children are different and have different strengths as well as things that are hard for them. Some things that are easy for you to do are very difficult for other children to do. It takes a lot of courage for children with physical disabilities to keep trying and working at it.” For those between the ages of nine and twelve without a disability, try and encourage them to support their peers with disability. For example, you can tell them this: “Whenever you see someone with a disability, remember that even though they are having a hard time, they are still children who need friends and understanding. 

Explain how assistive technology and supportive living can help those living with the condition? 
Assistive Technology is a generic term for devices and modifications (for persons or within a society) that help overcome or remove a disability. The term is also used to describe any device, software or resource that can increase skills and maximize an individual’s potential due to any of the following: economic limitations; language barrier; cultural differences; educational barriers and the disability itself. Often, there are technologies available that can help increase the opportunities of individuals with developmental disabilities and enhance the quality of their life and that of their families. However, adults, as well as families with children who have special needs, especially those living in developing countries often have difficulty accessing conventional resources. The first recorded example of the use of a prosthesis dates to at least 1800 BC, followed by the wheelchair which dates from the 17th century. Other examples are standing frames, text telephones, accessible keyboards, large print, and Braille as well as speech recognition software. Apart from these, people with disabilities often develop personal or community adaptations, such as strategies to suppress or hide their limitations in public, or sign language that is used in deaf communities. Since personal computer has become more ubiquitous, more organizations are urged to collaborate develop software and hardware to make computers more accessible for people with disabilities, with some of them being specifically designed for people with disabilities, such that others which were not specifically developed for people with disabilities, can be used to increase accessibility. 

What does assistive technology solutions involve? 
Assistive technology solutions vary from the simple to the complex, but they all tend to have one thing in common assisting people with a wide range of disabilities and impairments to overcome or better cope with their limitations and thereby, achieve greater independence. Given that each solution is individualized to meet the user’s unique needs, it can take both time and an equipment trial period to find the appropriate solution and one that offers the most benefit. However, this process can be greatly enhanced by an individual assessment/consultation and training. 

What does ‘supported living’ entail? 
Many definitions of the term ‘Supportive or Supported Living’ abound, but the one that best describes the term is this one by the State of Oregon in the United States of America. ‘Supported living’ is defined as persons with disabilities living where and with whom they want, for as long as they want, with the on-going support needed to sustain that choice. Direct support services can be provided by paid staff, including live-in roommates or boarders, paid neighbours and hired attendant. Experts, friends, families, and other “informal supports” can also assist people to live in their homes. 

How can public-private partnership help researchers and address cerebral palsy? 
Parents and advocacy groups are urged to support research on the genetic basis of CP. CP research has historically been underfunded when compared to other childhood diseases. Parents and families can help reverse this inequity by supporting organizations whose agenda focuses on needed research. You or your child can participate in the Cerebral Palsy Genetic Research Collaborative.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 27, 2013.
Food additives that cause diseases

By: Chioma Umeha

Weight management foods like yogurts, soft drinks, and gum can contain some wacky ingredients that many dieters wouldn’t ever consider putting in their body, regardless of how much weight it could help them lose. Health experts have listed of food additives people may be eating that have potential health risks. Of the 10 food additives on the list, nine show possible cancer connections, including tumours, lymphomas, and leukaemia, with some indicating potential links to diabetes and heart disease. Aspartame: Aspartame is a commonly known sugar substitute that has caused controversy since its widespread use began in the early 1970s. 

The sweetener is used in place of sugar in gums, soft drinks, and some desserts to help cut calories. Studies have suggested that aspartame may be more harmful than it is beneficial. Aspartame has been linked to brain tumours, lymphomas, and breast cancer, but aspartame isn’t the only chemical concern for consumers. Acesulfame-potassium: Acesulfame-potassium, also known as acesulfame-K, is also used as a replacement for sugar. 

Acesulfame-potassium is often used in baked desserts, gum, and energy drinks. The additive is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but adverse effects in two animal studies documented by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives suggest that it could be cancer-causing. Erythrosine: The artificial dye erythrosine, which is used to give cherries in fruit cocktails, baked desserts, and candy a more luscious red hue, has caused significant controversy since the 1980s. Studies some 30 years ago presented evidence that the dye, also called Artificial Red 3, caused thyroid tumours in laboratory rats, but continues to be widely used today according to health experts.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 29, 2013.

Adequate health-care requires synergy among providers – Expert

By: Chioma Umeha

Healthcare providers in the country have been urged to sheath their swords and refrain from in-house fighting and embrace collaboration as this will help promote team spirit which will forge the health sector forward. Making the call was Olumide Akintayo, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), during the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria at the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria’s (APBN) board meeting held on Tuesday, at Pharmacy House, Anthony Village in Lagos. Condemning the in-house fighting within various healthcare providers in the country and called for synergy among them, Akintayo insisted that this will promote adequate health-care delivery in the country. Akintayo spoke during the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria’s board meeting held on Tuesday, at Pharmacy House, Anthony Village, Lagos. His words: “We note that there is a lot of competition, confrontation and distrust in the health sector. This situation must give way for collaboration, consultation, cooperation in the interest of the health consuming public. We must open our hearts and minds to allow the team concept to rule our worlds in healthcare delivery.”

Olumide Akintayo
According to him, it is pertinent to create a genuine cooperation between pharmacists and other healthcare providers, in view of the cost of fighting against diseases and promoting good health which continues to rise disproportionately against regular control and intervention. “There is no doubt that the cost of fighting against disease and preserving health will continue to increase in spite of constant control and intervention. There are manifold reasons and benefits for wishing to create a genuine cooperation between pharmacists and other healthcare providers,” he said. The PSN boss pledged that his association will continue to champion the cause of teamwork among all stakeholders in the health industry.

Already, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has earlier recorded important milestones for its pioneer efforts in the area of fake drug Act, Pharmaceutical Council of Nigerian (PCN) Act, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Act, Akintayo said. As he put it:  “Pharmacists will therefore provide leadership to ensure unity among all the stakeholders in healthcare delivery. In the pursuance of these goals, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria had championed some landmark statutes including the Fake Drug Act, NIPRD Act, PCN Act, and NAFDAC Act and will remain in the vanguard of pursuing landmark Acts of Parliament in the interest of the health sector.” He urged APBN to be at the forefront of national discourse in the areas of regulatory autonomy for the major professions in the country and mediatory roles in inter-professional conflicts. He noted that conflict is a common occurrence in many human relationships, adding that the ability to turn challenges into opportunities is one of the hallmarks of great and successful managers. The PSN President therefore urged the APBN to intervene in inter-professional conflicts. Commending the previous attempts of APBN in resolving inter-professional conflicts, he insisted that they should not relent in their efforts.

Reasoning that the Oronsaye Panel which appraised the activities of government agencies and parastatals addressed the issue of regulatory autonomy for major professions in the country, Akintayo said that APBN should champion either a private member’s or an Executive Bill that compels the federal government to handover the running of all professions to professional bodies. “ The Oronsaye Panel which appraised the activities of government agencies and parastatals dwelt on this matter tacitly and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria strongly suggests that the APBN should champion either a private member’s or even an Executive Bill that compels the federal government to handover the running of all professions to professional bodies in Nigeria.

The success stories of some professional bodies that have regulated their professions suggest eloquent testimonies that will accrue if this move sees the light of the day, Akintayo said. He continued: “Conflict is a natural fall-out of most human relationships. The propensity to turn challenges into opportunities is one of the hallmarks of great and successful managers. “It is imperative we put on record previous mediatory roles of the APBN in resolving inter-professional conflicts, a need still arises for the APBN to do even more to sustain the prestige of the various affected professions. The APBN must build the myth to attain this goal for consumers of our various services to continue to perceive us as relevant in the years ahead,” he added.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 29, 2013.
Will new WHO guidelines reduce HIV-related illness burden?

By: Chioma Umeha

Over a decade ago, World Bank (WB) health specialists some countries, that anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, the only lifesaver for people living with HIV, should not be its priority because it would exhaust the country’s health budget. One of such countries is India. However, WHO on Sunday, after releasing its new guidelines, at the International AIDS Society meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said immediate treatment of the nine million persons will halt spread of the disease. According to the new guidelines the total global spending on AIDS which will rise by 10 per cent is put at $26.4 billion yearly up from the $24 billion it used to be. 

The world health body directed that young children and certain other people with the AIDS virus should be started on medicines as soon as they are diagnosed, in new guidelines that also recommend earlier treatment for adults.  It further noted that the advice will have the most impact in Africa, where nearly 70 percent of people with HIV live. Many rich countries already advocate early treatment. Reasons for update on ARV-history This is because WHO revised its ARV guidelines on 30 June, thereby making AIDS-treatment more universal. WHO now says that more people, who had hitherto not been advised to start ARV, should also be put under treatment, which means people should go on treatment much earlier than before. WHO’s new “Consolidated guidelines on the use of anti-retroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection” asks all countries to start ARV for people living with HIV whose CD4 count is 500. CD4 is a marker for immunity in people living with HIV; the lower it gets, the sicker they get. Earlier, the WHO had advised people to start ARV when the CD4 dropped below 300, the threshold when people fell ill. In the initial years, it was even lower — for some it was 200 and some, 250, by which time some people might have already fallen sick. Even 300 was an optimal barrier because some people fell sick to various infections before the CD4 reached there. 

The new standard of CD4 500 makes it incumbent on countries to give ARV to its HIV-positive people much earlier, long before their immunity is compromised. Scientific evidence shows that starting treatment early has tremendous benefits, particularly in keeping their immune systems healthier, if not intact. If countries can comply with them, we might see many people living with HIV not falling sick at all, at least for several (more) years after they get infected. It will reduce the burden of illnesses such as TB and other infections, morbidity and even deaths. AIDS will finally get a real make-over as a chronic condition such as diabetes.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 6, 2013.
No HIV after stem-cell transplants – Researchers

By: Chioma Umeha

Two HIV -positive patients show no trace of virus after receiving chemotherapy and stem-cell transplants as treatment for lymphoma, according to new research. These patients have become the second and third known cases of a “sterilizing cure,” in which medical treatment removes all traces of HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — from the body. They have remained virus-free even though doctors’ months ago took them off their HIV-targeted medications. “We have been unable to detect virus in either the blood cells or the plasma of these patients,” said lead researcher Dr. Timothy Henrich, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We also biopsied gut tissue from one of our patients, and we were unable to detect HIV in the cells of the gut. 

Essentially, we do not have any evidence of viral rebound.” The findings are scheduled for presentation on Wednesday at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The patients had been receiving long-term antiretroviral therapy for HIV when they developed lymphoma, a type of blood cancer involving white blood cells, Henrich said. Both underwent chemotherapy followed by bone marrow transplants to cure their lymphoma. Afterward, Henrich could not detect any HIV infection in their bodies. Henrich presented preliminary findings on the research at the International AIDS Conference last July.  Since then, he and his research team withdrew the patients’ antiretroviral therapy to see how completely the cancer treatment had rid them of HIV. One patient has been off treatment with no detectable virus for about 15 weeks, and the second patient for seven weeks. Henrich warned that it is too soon to declare the patients completely cured of HIV. “Although we cannot detect HIV, it’s possible it’s there but in extremely low amounts,” he said. “We’re going to watch and wait, and see where it goes with these patients.” 

Unfortunately, this type of cure is not something that can be put into widespread practice for all people infected with HIV. “Transplantation is not a scalable, affordable or even safe treatment for HIV patients,” Henrich said. The so-called “Berlin patient,” Timothy Brown, is the first documented case of a sterilizing cure for HIV. An American man living in Germany who received a bone marrow transplant for leukemia, Brown has remained HIV-free even after discontinuing his antiretroviral drug therapy The transplanted bone marrow cells came from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that increases immunity against the most common form of HIV, and researchers believe that helped protect Brown from re-infection. In Mississippi, US, a baby born with HIV nearly three years ago is the first case of a “functional cure,” in which early treatment eradicates the virus. Immediate treatment with antiretroviral medications rid the child of all traces of HIV within the first month of life, and she has remained virus-free even after discontinuing drug therapy at 18 months of age.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 6, 2013.

Africa To Celebrate 1m HIV-Free Babies Soon

By: Chioma Umeha

The next birth of baby without HIV to a mother, who suffers from the disease, will bring the number of babies born without infection to one million in Sub-Saharan Africa following ten years of US aid programme. According to health experts, this will mark another remarkable step in the long fight against HIV and AIDS, as the United States and its global partners work towards what they call an AIDS-free generation, which just a decade ago would have been unimaginable. 

Mother-to-baby transmission has long been a source of concern among governments and organizations working to control the spread of HIV. But more effective anti-retroviral drugs and regimens are now dramatically cutting the chances of an infected mother passing on the disease to her baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The millionth baby born HIV-free was Tuesday to be trumpeted as part of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known by its acronym PEPFAR. The biggest fall in transmission rates from mom to infant has come since 2009, US Global AIDS coordinator Eric Goosby told AFP, Tuesday. “Somewhere round 430,000 babies are born annually with HIV and this project that we’ve been in really since the beginning of PEPFAR and has intensified over the last three years in partnership with UNAID and UNICEF,” Goosby said. 

The program was working to “virtually eliminate paediatric HIV by 2015 and keep their mothers alive,” he said, with aim of reducing the number of babies born with the infection to around 30,000 annually. This is “a significant flag for PEPFAR” which works in 36 countries, he added, pointing to all the difficulties in reaching women in rural, poor and remote areas of the world. This involves not just identifying the mother, but getting her on a drugs program and keeping her in treatment through that pregnancy and any later pregnancies — not always an easy task in rural Africa. Once the chances of a mother infecting her baby stood at around 30 percent, but now with the launch of a cocktail of three anti-retroviral drugs that has dropped to only about two percent, Goosby said. Absent a medical breakthrough leading to a cure, experts are working towards a so-called “tipping point” when fewer people contract HIV every year than the number of people going onto treatments. US Secretary of State John Kerry, hosting Tuesday’s ceremony, was also to announce that some 13 countries, from Botswana to Zimbabwe, were close to that all important “tipping point.” 

In Ethiopia and Malawi, the ratio of new HIV infections to the increase of patients on treatment is just 0.3. The figures are startling. Ethiopia — which with a population of 84.7 million is the most populous African country after Egypt — for instance registered only 11,000 new cases of HIV in adults in 2011. Launched under former president George W. Bush, PEPFAR was an initial commitment of some $15 billion over five years aimed specifically to provide anti-retroviral drugs to HIV infected people. That has risen to a budget of about $5.5 billion annually, including its contribution to the Global Fund — the world’s largest financing organization of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. And although some 1.7 million people still die every year from AIDS-related illnesses, PEPFAR supports more than 5.1 million on treatment programs. The program estimates that worldwide more than 16 million children are living without one or both parents who have succumbed to AIDS, while millions more are left vulnerable with their parents chronically ill.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 20, 2013.
NAFDAC impounds N10.5m materials for packaging fake drugs

By: Chioma Umeha

The National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said recently, that it had intercepted packaging materials worth N10.5 million intended for fake products manufacturers. 

The Director-General of the agency, Dr Paul Orhii, who said this at a news conference, observed that counterfeiters had devised another means by importing packaging materials rather than the finished products. His words: “Two large packages of 20,000 units of fake NGC Codeine bottle caps worth about N5 million imported by Kaba and Kachi cleared by Gojeb Global Resources were intercepted by vigilant PID officers, the packaging material which is an anti-tussive/analgesic product was imported with the intention of faking codeine syrup. He continued: “Three packages containing 15,000 pieces of packaging materials for the manufacture of fake Olay carrot lightening shower cream, 15,000 pieces of packaging material for the manufacture of fake Olay Goat milk lightening shower cream and 5,000 piece of packaging material for the manufacture of fake Avon perfume body spray with an estimated market value of N4.5 million  was intercepted. 

Paul Orhii (Director-General, NAFDAC)
The NAFDAC boss also said: “One Mr Osita Mbakwe imported four packages of packaging materials for the manufacture of fake Sure White lightening shower cream. The product which has an estimated market value of N1 million was intercepted at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, NAHCO cargo.’’ Orhii said recent discovery had revealed that the success in stopping the importation of finished counterfeit medicines had forced counterfeiters to now operate by importing packaging materials. “They have shifted from shipment of container loads of counterfeit drugs through the seaports to clandestine importation of small and portable packages of counterfeit drugs through airports that can easily evade the eagle eyes of law enforcement agencies,” he said. Orhii said the agency would look out for illegal counterfeit drug production sites and then take decisive steps to nip them in the bud. 

He called on Nigerians to be vigilant and report to the agency any clandestine and murderous production sites for quick action, saying: “Any counterfeiter arrested will be prosecuted speedily in accordance to the extant laws. “Landlords of warehouses stocked with counterfeit products and other substandard regulated products will henceforth be arrested and prosecuted as accomplices,’’ Orhii said. Orhii said the agency also intercepted rabies vaccine injection and tetanus vaccine injection totaling 47,091 packs with an estimated market value of N3 million. He said the vaccine was for vaccination against rabies and tetanus and was illegally imported in an inappropriate storage condition, which could have affected the potency of the vaccine. Other interceptions included that of 0.25g of Amoxycillin capsules and PSKL Herbal tea in two large packages, with an estimated market value of N1.5 million. The director said the fake herbal tea products had been implicated in certain disease conditions of the liver and kidney. He said the agency was determined to achieve the zero tolerance target for counterfeit drugs and other unwholesome regulated products.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 15, 2013.
Nigerian rice farmers lost N22.4b to Guinea-worm

By: Chioma Umeha.

In a week time, Nigeria will formerly join the league of over 35 other African countries that have wiped out the guinea worm disease after it has received the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) certification if there is no report of new infection. 

Rice Plantation
Precisely, between June 24 and July 14, the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication of WHO will be in the country to certify Nigeria free of the disease, also known as dracunculiasis, a debilitating parasitic infection that affects people living in remote, poverty stricken communities. Also called ‘impoverisher’ in communities, guinea worm outbreaks in South East alone cost rice farmers an estimated $140 million annually within a period of seven years, 1988 and 1995. This is an equivalent of N22.4 billion today. Reports from the Carter Centre’s Guinea Worm Eradication Programme stated, “Disease outbreaks in south eastern Nigeria alone cost rice farmers an estimated $20 million annually in the late 1980s.” Also, a similar report from the centre in 2008 said the disease still cost $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone as at mid 1990s. “In the mid-1990s, guinea worm infections in part of the heavily populated region of South East Nigeria caused an estimated $20 million in lost income to rice farmers alone,” the report said. 

Reacting to what it cost Nigeria to eradicate the disease, Mr. Buki Ponle, member, NIGEP’s steering committee, said the loss could not be quantified in monetary terms. In an interview conducted on telephone, he said a farmer with guinea worm has trouble working. Mothers cannot take good care of their children or carry them to clinics for vaccination. Children lose many weeks of schooling, and eventually drop out of school. Similarly, the World Bank estimated $1 billion in annual loss in production of marketable goods in the early 1980s due to the disease. Carter Center worked with the Ministry of Health to spare thousands of people from suffering from this devastating disease, beginning from 1988. Between 1988 and 1989, Nigeria was the most guinea-worm-endemic country in the world, reporting more than 650,000 cases in 36 states. For instance, the country conceived the Nigeria Guinea Worm Eradication Programme (NIGEP) in 1988 to spearhead the eradication campaign in the country.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 11, 2013.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Obstetrics, gynaecology, largest users of blood yearly – Health Ministry

By: Chioma Umeha

An estimated 92 million blood donations are recorded yearly, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

By 2020, WHO’s target is for all countries to obtain 100 per cent of its blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donations. However, voluntary unpaid donations currently account for 100 per cent of national supplies in only 62 countries around the world. Experts have therefore canvassed for increase in voluntary blood transfusion to that the global target is met. They are worried that voluntary blood transfusion is low at a time when many nations of the world, including, Nigeria is struggling to ensure reduction in maternal and infant mortality rates. This is because studies have shown that the largest users of blood each year are the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G). Confirming this was the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who noting that the largest users of blood each year are the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G), attributed this to haemorrage (bleeding), which is the major cause of maternal mortality. 

Idris who spoke during a press briefing at the Ministry of Health, during a media parley ahead of this year’s World Blood Donor Day, therefore insisted that safe blood needs to be available in adequate quantity for obstetric emergencies for the reduction of maternal mortality in the state. “,” the Lagos Health Ministry boss said. He urged every Lagos citizen to become regular voluntary donors and an advocate of voluntary blood donation. His words: “Only approximately eight per cent of all the blood transfused is from voluntary donations. This is a far cry from the 100 per cent target set by WHO for the whole world to achieve by 2020.” His statement further read: “The next steps; you will note that if this is to be achieved all of us have a role to play. The role is to be regular voluntary donors and also spread the word and ‘recruit’ voluntary donors who will also emulate you and be regular donors.” 

The Commissioner added that individuals can partner with the state to boost voluntary blood transfusion through celebrating landmarks like birthdays, wedding anniversaries among others by donating their blood. He also said that organizations can partner with the state to provide voluntary donors. He called for individual sponsorship donor drive, and other activities aimed at increasing the voluntary donor base, observing that the list of possibilities is endless. According to him, increasing the voluntary donor base has become pertinent as medical emergencies requiring blood transfusion often don’t give any warning. Instances he said are; ‘a woman in labour, a road traffic accident victim, victims of collapsed buildings, gunshot wounds, among others.’ However, he said that there is growing response to voluntary blood donation in the state as the figure of donors rose from 474 in 2006 to 2159 in 2012, even as it has recorded 1780 donor since this year started. The Commissioner further noted that there are more male donors, with majority of them within the ages of 18 and 45. His words: “There is generally a steady increase in the response of the people of Lagos State to voluntary blood donation from 2006 when we had 474 to 2012 where we had 2159. From January this year to June 10, we have had 1780 so far. Also, there are more male donors and the majority fall within the ages of 18 and 45 years.” 

Also, the Chairman of the Lagos State Blood Transfusion Committee (LSBTC) Dr. Adetoun Agbe-Davies has reiterated the state ministry of health commitment to protect the identity of donors as well as ensure that they have appropriate health care. Agbe-Davies who spoke at this year’s World Blood Donor Day which held at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hall, Ikeja, said, “Our voluntary donors are handled with respect, confidentiality and care. Those that need further care are referred.” Elaborating on the state ministry of health role to provide incentives and good health care to voluntary donors, the LSBTC boss said: “Recently, the Ministry of Health approved pre-packed haematinics (blood tonic tablets) to be given to voluntary donors who are found not to be eligible on account of mild aneamia after due counseling on diet etc. This is to appreciate them and encourage them to come back to donate when they have improved.” He further observed that all units of blood collected are screened using the WHO recommended standards for HIV 1&2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphillis at our screening centres. 

Regular monitoring visits are paid to public and private blood banks to ensure high standards of practice. Agbe-Davies also noted that the this year’s World Blood Donor Day is tenth in the series was marked with essay competition which was held with the assistance of the Lagos State Ministry of Education among Senior Secondary School students on the topic: “Blood Saves Lives. Safe Blood Starts With Me”. “A special feature of this year’s 10th anniversary celebration is the essay competition which was held with the assistance of the Lagos State Ministry of Education among Senior Secondary School students on the topic: “Blood Saves Lives. Safe Blood Starts With Me”. It is obvious that the students researched the topic in depth from their submissions. It is hoped that the experience and the knowledge gained will influence them to be voluntary donors from age 18 years,” he said. The first three winners received their personal prizes, while their schools were presented with plaques. Each of the first 60 students will receive a certificate of participation. 

Mrs. Dame Abimbola Fashola, First Lady, Lagos state, during the occasion recalled that LSBTC was established in recognition of the critical issues of blood donation and its transfusion in the state. Mrs. Fashola said that the committee has the responsibility to ensure that state is “A State where only safe blood is transfused in all appropriate health facilities.” She therefore called for regular voluntary donors, insisting that blood donation as a gift that saves lives. A major highlight of the event was the testimony session of donors and recipients.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 20, 2013.
NAFDAC impounds over N39m fake packaging containers … Products capable of causing infertility

By: Chioma Umeha

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has arrested three persons suspected to have imported packaging materials worth over N39m intended for the marketing of fake products which are capable of causing infertility and unwanted pregnancies in women. Announcing this was the Director General of the agency, Dr. Paul Orhii, in a media chat on the activities of his organisation, Wednesday, at the Oshodi corporate head office in Lagos. One of those arrested include Mr. Nwachukwu Odinaka of No. 13 Isa Street, Igando, Lagos, who was alleged to have imported counterfeit Postinor-2 tablets through NAHCO shed, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. 

The following were said to have been found with him at the time of arrest: three cartons  of Postinor-2 tablets and three cartons of Postinor-2 packaging materials. The product label indicates that the product was manufactured in Hungary whereas the consignment was imported from China. A total of 150,000 pieces of Postinor with an estimated market value of N37, 500,000.00 was impounded. The DG explained that the product, which is a contraceptive pill, when faked can lead to unwanted pregnancies, damage to the womb and adversely affecting the hormonal balance of the body. Also the agency arrested one Mr. Okwy Madu of No. 10 Oshineike Street, Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos for the alleged importation of packaging material for counterfeiting of Far Away Perfumes. According to Orhii, Madu, allegedly imported two cartons of 2,848 pieces  of packaging material for counterfeiting ‘Far Away Perfumes’ through NAHCO shed, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. 

The hard board packaging materials are valued at N 2.5 million. The packaging indicates that the product is manufactured in Mexico whereas they were imported from China. The next was Mr. Ikechukwu Valentine Anichebe, Managing Director, of Floxvik Queen Helene Company, No.6 Nnobi Street, Ipaye Iba , Ojo, Lagos, who was arrested for alleged counterfeiting of cosmetic products According to the NAFDAC boss, Mr. Anichebe, owner of Floxvik Queen Helene Cosmetics factory was duly recognized by the agency to produce Floxvik Queen, Helene Fair lotion 248 (ml) with NAFDAC reg. no 02-6498 and Floxvik Queen Helen Shower Bath 1 (It) with NAFDAC reg no. 02-7223. However, he was caught with three packages, suspected to contain cosmetic labels for unregistered Olay Goat’s Milk, Olay Carrot and Olay Lightening Shower Cream at NAHCO, Orhii said. Further investigation led to his factory located at the same address where he manufactures counterfeit cosmetic products which has been sealed. Recovered  products  include: 18 cartons of Olay Carrot Complexion Solution , Dr.   Miracles   Complexion, 11 pieces of Clarifying   Shower Milk; one carton of Dr. Miracle Toning Formula Lotion. 

The Dr. Miracles Complexion Clarifying Shower Milk is purported to have been manufactured by Floxvik, Laboratories INC. Hemp Brown, 109523 Hepstate NY, Made in USA, while the Olay carrot complexion solution is made in Ireland, with distributor as Procter & Gamble , Cincinnati, OH 45202 as address. But they are all manufactured in Nigeria by Mr. Ikechukwu Valentine Anichebe, the DG said. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on June 22, 2013.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Nigeria charts new path to end mother-to-child HIV transmission

By: Chioma Umeha

With Nigeria currently accounting for 30 per cent of new HIV infections among infants in sub-Sahara Africa, President Goodluck Jonathan will today launch a National Action Plan to end Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the country, a strategic move to ensure the country does not fail in efforts to end HIV/AIDS infection. 

The event is coming on the heels of National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) appeal for more funds to stop new cases of mother to child transmission of HIV/Aids by 90 per cent in 2015. During an interaction with journalists in Abuja on Monday, Director General of the Agency, Dr John Idoko lamented decline of international funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa is declining. According to him, Nigeria needs to raise its internal funding mechanism to eliminate mother – to -child transmission of the virus. To increase the momentum in the effort to achieve (eMTCT), there is need to enhance political commitment at all levels of government, Idoko said. “The initiative proposes a high level process, involving political and other key stakeholders in Nigeria, geared towards the advancement of the eMTCT agenda.” 

Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Jide Idris (second left)
decorates wife of the Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola (second right)
as face of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the State as the Special Adviser to
the Lagos State Governor on Public Health, Dr. Yewande Adeshina (right)
and others watch during the event in Ikeja, recently.

The NACA boss explained that “this high level process undertaken by Mr. President aims at political and social mobilisation to end the AIDS epidemic among children. “It will start with the launching of a National Action Plan to end Mother to Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria between 2015 and 2016 and progress into a vigorous one-week long nationwide campaign of HIV counselling and testing (HCT) for pregnant women,” he said. Idoko stated that Nigeria has made tremendous progress in the fight against the virus, stressing that treatment for prevention of mother to child transmission rose from 33, 891 in 2010 to 57,871 in 2013. Also speaking at the media interaction, the United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) Country Director, Dr. Bilali Camara, said Nigeria needs to expand the current scope in the treatment and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in the country. 

Camara stated that given government, resolve to stem MTCT, it has become pertinent to “accelerate and capitalise on the progress recorded for better results.” Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (ASWHAN), Assumpta Reginald, urged government to expedite action in ensuring meaningful involvement and participation of ASWHAN members” in order to make prevention of mother to child transmission work. Reginald also called for the implementation of the option B+ plan, increase in the provision of Anti-Retroviral drugs (paediatric ARV) among others. The presidential launch of MTCT is coming on the heels of growing fears over foreign donors’ withdrawal of funding support for HIV/AIDS programmes in Nigeria. Also, the launch is seen as a commitment by the federal government to embrace local funding, taking cognizance of termination of donors’ funds.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 13, 2014.

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