Wednesday, 19 August 2015

NAFDAC reduces level of fake drugs from 19.6% to 3.6%

There is no doubt that the issue of counterfeit drugs will soon be a past thing as a nation-wide survey of the quality of anti-malaria medicines in the country has revealed a drastic reduction of counterfeit anti-malaria drugs from 19.6 per cent in 2012 to 3.6 per cent in 2015. 

A statement signed by Dr. Abubakar Jimoh, Director (Special Duties), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) announced the result of the survey which shows a landmark achievement by the food and drug agency. The statement said: “National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has accomplished a landmark feat as the result of a nation-wide survey of the quality of anti-malaria medicines in Nigeria revealed a drastic reduction of counterfeit anti-malaria drugs from 19.6 per cent in 2012 to 3.6 per cent in 2015.” 

The National survey on quality of anti-malaria medicines which was conducted in six geo-political zones in the country was jointly undertaken by the National Malaria Elimination Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC with the funding support by United States Pharmacopeial and USAID. Reacting to the result of the new survey, the highly elated Director-General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii said attributed the breakthrough to the introduction and deployment of new anti-counterfeiting cutting-edge technologies such as TRUSCAN, Mobile Authentication Services (MAS), Mini-laboratory and Deep Infra-red technology by NAFDAC under his administration. Orhii said: “The introduction and deployment of new anti-counterfeiting cutting-edge technologies such as TRUSCAN, Mobile Authentication Services (MAS), Mini-laboratory and Deep Infra-red technology by NAFDAC under his watch were majorly responsible for the ground breaking success so far recorded in ensuring safe and good quality medicines in the country.” 

Dr. Orhii noted that the agency has again done Nigeria and Africa proud with this remarkable achievement coming closely on the heels of the recent seizure of five billion Naira counterfeit drugs evacuated from five warehouses in Lagos. He reiterated his determination to completely eradicate the menace of counterfeit drugs in the country very soon. The Director-General thanked the USP, USAID, Federal Ministry of Health and other partner Agencies for their support towards the anti-counterfeiting war. Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute who chaired the survey report dissemination meeting in Abuja commended the United States Government for providing the needed fund for the survey while noting that the cheering news of the reduction in counterfeit drugs came at a time Nigeria has recorded progress in other public health issues. 

Mr. Awute who was represented by the Ministry’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Bridget Okwuagwale reiterated Federal Government‘s determination to wipe out disease burden such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The vice-president of USP, Dr. Patrick Lukulay observed that the success recorded by NAFDAC with the attainment of International Accreditation of her laboratory in Yaba, Lagos seven months ago laid a foundation for the current celebration of the results of the quality of medicine survey. Dr. Lukulay said the various successes recorded by USP in her partnership with NAFDAC and other regulatory agencies in Nigeria within 4years surpassed other USP interventions for the past 10years in other African Countries. 

It would be recalled that a survey of the quality of anti-malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa undertaken by WHO in 2008 showed 64 per cent incidence of fake anti-malaria in Nigeria and other 13 African countries. The assumption of office by Dr. Orhii as Director-General of NAFDAC led to reduction of the incidence of counterfeit drugs from 64 per cent in 2008 to 19.6 per cent in 2012 and later 3.6 per cent in 2015. 

The WHO in recognition of these outstanding achievements appointed Dr. Orhii in 2012 as the first chair of her International Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force known as the States mechanism on Spurious, Substandard, Falsified and Falsely-Labelled Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products consisting of 193 member-nations.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 13, 2015.

Bedwetting: What causes it?

It’s a myth that laziness causes bedwetting. Millions of children wet the bed – but why? And how can you help?

“I call it the hidden problem of childhood,” says Howard Bennett, MD, a paediatrician and author of Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting. “Unlike asthma or allergies, it’s just not talked about outside the house.”

Bedwetting: The secret problem
That secrecy about bedwetting makes the situation tougher for kids and parents alike. “Ninety percent of kids think they’re the only ones who wet the bed, which makes them feel even worse,” says Bennett.
Yet bed-wetting children are far from alone. Though children naturally gain bladder control at night, they do so at different ages. From 5 to 7 million kids wet the bed some or most nights — with twice as many boys wetting their bed as girls. After age 5, about 15% of children continue to wet the bed, and by age 10, 95% of children are dry at night.

Wet beds leave bad feelings all around. Frustrated parents sometimes conclude a child is wetting the bed out of laziness. Kids worry there’s something wrong with them — especially when teasing siblings chime in. Fear of wetting the bed at a friend’s sleepover can create social awkwardness.
For some, bedwetting may be an inevitable part of growing up, but it doesn’t have to be traumatic. Understanding bed-wetting’s causes is the first step to dealing with this common childhood problem.

The bedwetting gene
There’s no one single cause of bed-wetting, but if you want an easy target, look no farther than your own DNA.
“The majority of bedwetting is inherited,” says Bennett. “For three out of four kids, either a parent or a first-degree relative also wet the bed in childhood.”

Scientists have even located some of the specific genes that lead to delayed night-time bladder control. (For the record, they are on chromosome 13, 12, and 8.)
“Most parents who had the same problem communicate it to their kids, which is good,” suggested Bennett. “It helps a kid understand, I’m not alone, it is not my fault.”

The usual bedwetting suspects
Yet genetics only tells part of the story. Researchers have identified a number of factors that likely contribute to bedwetting. “All of these are debated, but each probably plays a role in some children,” said Bennett, including:

  • Delayed bladder maturation. “Simply put, the brain and bladder gradually learn to communicate with each other during sleep, and this takes longer to happen in some children,” Bennett said.
  • Low anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone tells the kidneys to make less urine. Studies show that some kids who wet the bed release less of this hormone while asleep. More urine can mean more bedwetting.
  • Deep sleepers. “Families have been telling us for years that their children who wet the bed sleep more deeply than their children that does not,” said Bennett. Research confirmed the link. “Some of these children sleep so deeply, their brain doesn’t get the signal that their bladder is full,” according to research.
  • Smaller “functional” bladder. Although a child’s true bladder size may be normal, “during sleep, it sends the signal earlier that it’s full,” said Bennett.
  • Constipation. Full bowels press on the bladder, and can cause uncontrolled bladder contractions, during waking or sleep. “This is the one that’s hiding in the background,” said Bennett.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 15, 2015.

HIV/AIDS: Ogun offers free treatment to positive patients

To ensure provision of qualitative and affordable healthcare services to the people of Ogun State, the State government has granted HIV positive patients free access to treatment in all health facilities in the State. 

The Director, Ogun State Agency for the Control of AIDS (OGSACA) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Toyin Adeyemi, made this known during HIV Counselling and Testing Outreach (HCT) with the support of the World Bank Supported Community HCT Outreach (WBSCHCTO) to community members, at Ifo and Odeda Local Government Areas of the State. 

A Youth Corp member being tested for HIV
He said out of 6,577 members of the Communities registered for the counselling exercise, 2,447 were counselled and tested while 2,424 were negative. Dr. Adeyemi said the free counselling and testing exercise was aimed at capturing the total numbers of HIV infected persons in the State, adding that the Governor was interested in the plight of the infected members of the public. 

“The Governor has made it mandatory that those tested positive should not pay throughout the duration of their treatment, therefore the infected people would be referred to the nearest health facility for free treatment”, Adeyemi said. While urging members of the public, particularly the youth to be mindful of relationships they keep, the Director said if they were not 100 per cent sure of their partners HIV status, it would be safer for them to make use of condoms and other precautionary method. 

Also speaking, the State HIV/AIDS Counseling and Testing Officer, Mrs. Lola Oluga, said the free counseling and testing activities carried out in Ifo and Odeda LGA respectively would be extended to other Local Government Areas of the State. She said the exercise was aimed at sensitizing rural communities on their HIV status, urging the public to go for regular check up for early detection and management. 

Mrs. Oluga said those who were found positive would have access to free anti- retroviral drugs, noting that Government would leave no stone unturned at ensuring that HIV/AIDS was reduced to the barest minimum in the State. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 15, 2015.

Hard times await patients with chronic disease

…  As NIROPHARM wants ECOWAS common external tariff retained 

Hard times await Nigerians who depend local health services for treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma, heart and kidney disease, among others, unless the recent calls by stakeholders are heeded to by the government to maintain zero tariffs on certain imported drugs, insisting that this will ensure more affordable drugs for patients with such diseases. 

Stating this in Lagos, were members of the Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NIROPHRAM), who tasked government to renew its commitment to improving the well-being of Nigerians and to stand firm in upholding Economic for West African States’ (ECOWAS) Common External Tariff (CET) which it is a signatory. The President of the association, Lekan Asuni, said the call was also germane in ensuring that input into local pharmaceutical manufacturing, such as raw materials and packaging is allotted zero per cent importation tariff. 

He faulted the recent calls on government by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN) for an import adjustment of 20 per cent tax on imported finished pharmaceutical products of HS Code 3003 and HS Code 3004. According to him, PMGMAN’s push was a good omen for the Nigerian government, but, he argued that if the suggestion is adopted, it would unleash an untold hardship on patients who are the end purchasers and users of the medicines. Asuni, explained that the products with HS Code 3003 and HS Cod 3004 include life saving medicines used to treat chronic diseases earlier mentioned. 

According to him, the drugs required for treating these ailments are not produced locally, therefore levying tax on these drugs means that many Nigerians will be paying more for their drugs. “Most Nigerians live below the poverty line currently estimated at 60.9 per cent and only about 3.5 per cent are covered under National Health Insurance Scheme, so increasing tax on these essential products will plunge many into financial challenges. 

Beside, access to healthcare is a fundamental human right so without equitable access to essential medicine, this fundamental right cannot be fulfilled. “In Nigeria, over 70 per cent of essential medicines that are required are imported, while less than 30 per cent are supplied by the local pharmaceuticals manufacturers (PMGMAN, 2014). This is because no local manufacturer has the requisite technology as of now, to manufacture some critical and life saving medicines such as insulin and vaccines,” NIROPHARM boss said. 

According to Asuni, who is also the Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals Nigeria Limited, the HS Code 3003 and HS Code 3004 include essential drugs used in the treatment of chronic diseases, which are on the rise among Nigerians (current risk exposure is 10.4 percent), and are currently not produced locally and must then be imported to save lives. “For instance, recent evidence-based guidelines for the management of Type 2 diabetes recommend early ‘insulinisation’ for those difficult to control with oral hypoglycaemic. The resultant effect of increasing the taxes is that the approximately over six million Nigerians that will qualify to receive insulin and other life-saving medicines under this guideline will needlessly be paying more for their medications,” he further said. 

While also calling for zero percent tariff on manufacturers’ raw materials, he said manufacturers involved in importation are also engaged in research and development which brings about technology transfer that will be beneficial to the local industry and the economy. The association also argued that the CET will ensure reduced smuggling of medicine as a result of the standardized tariffs across the West African sub-region. NIROPHARM Chief said: “Prior to the adoption of the CET, medicines were more expensive in Nigeria compared to other ECOWAS countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic. 

This prize differences resulted in high level of cross-border smuggling of medicines and parallel import, and consequently loss of revenue to Nigerian unregistered companies and the government. With the CET, it will be easier to combat fake and adulterated medicines which have besieged the industry.” Rather than doing away with the ECOWAS CET and jeopardizing the health of Nigerians, NIROPHARM has proposed that raw materials for the local pharmaceutical manufacturing be allotted zero per cent importation tariff. “Access to funds should be available to local manufacturers at lower digit interest rates. 

The incentives from the federal government to local manufacturers should be retained and sustained,” he said. “Whilst it is a development imperative for the Nigerian government to support local manufacturing across all industrial sectors, we affirm that this PMGMAN position, albeit based on an unsubstantiated premise that any additional taxes on the products will be passed on to the patients, should be deemed invalid, as there are more benefits accruable to the wider Nigerian pharmaceutical industry and most importantly Nigerians, if the CET is retained, supported and sustained,” said the NIROPHARM President said. 

“Let me point out that you do not jumpstart manufacturing by fiat or decree,” Ike Onyechi, MD, Alfa Pharmaceuticals and Stores, warned. “While government must ensure that manufacturers get their raw materials, I will like to point out some of the drugs in question cannot be produced here for now, owing to low capacity of the local industry,” Onyechi said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 15, 2015.

Type 2 diabetes linked to skipping breakfast

That breakfast is the most important meal of the day is not news. However, new study has shown how harmful missing that first meal may be. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that women who skipped breakfast even once a week were 20 per cent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate a meal every morning. 

The study looked at data from more than 45,000 women who were initially free of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and assessed their eating patterns over a six-year period. Those who chose to forego breakfast but ate frequently (four or more times a day) had a greater risk of developing diabetes, while a lower body mass index (BMI) seemed to mitigate some of the danger associated with irregular breakfast consumption. 

Translation: skipping breakfast isn’t a smart idea for anyone, but seems to be even more harmful for those who are overweight. According to the study, male breakfast skippers are also at risk. Another recent large scale study shows a similar effect on men. After tracking over 29,000 men for 16 years, researchers found that men who skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions, hypothesizing that breakfast may play a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels throughout the day. 

In fact, a new but much smaller study showed that eating breakfast reduces overall diabetes risk for overweight women. Insulin levels were higher after missing breakfast, and researchers believe that missing that meal may lead to insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 8, 2015.

NAFDAC raids illegal factory loaded with expired condiments

… Says products causes liver, kidney diseases 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned Nigerians to beware of expired products which have been illegally revalidated and pushed into the market as they could lead to terminal diseases such as liver and kidney diseases which are currently on the rise in the country. 

NAFDAC reiterated the notice during the week when it uncovered an illegal factory loaded with various expired condiments worth millions of Naira even as it arrested a 24 – year- old, Victor Ebuka Okeke in connection with the expired products. This was following a special raid and enforcement operation in some markets in Lagos by the Investigation and Enforcement Directorate of the agency. The factory which was originally a one- room shop was used to stock and revalidate expired food products, particularly food condiments.   

Leader of the team and Assistant Director, Enforcement Directorate, Mr. Shaba Mohammed exhibiting an expired condiment during the raid in Lagos, recently.
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 the labels to Exeter Corned Beef. According to him, this was to make consumers patronise the corned beef because having the name Costa does not attract much consumers as much as Exeter does. 

Addressing journalists shortly after the exercise in Lagos, the leader of the team and Assistant Director, Enforcement Directorate, Mr. Shaba Mohammed, said the Agency has been on the trail of the alleged owner of the factory, Victor Ebuka Okeke, following an intelligence report on his activities in the market. Mohammed told journalists that the suspect, who also claimed to be the managing director of the factory, was caught revalidating expiry dates of Maggi Arome sauce and Amoy Soy sauce smuggled into the country from Ghana with expiry dates of 2014 to August 2016. According to him, the products expired since August 15, 2014. 

“The suspect was also caught changing labels of Costa corned beef to Exeter corned beef,” he added Mohammed who said the suspect has 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 the suspect to court for counterfeiting. “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 trace are and replace with new labels.” Lamenting that most of the revalidated 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 that the police attached to the agency will immediately take the statement of the suspect as the case will be forwarded for prosecution and suspect arraigned before a court. “Also the products evacuated will be used as exhibits in court. Every single thing that is here are dangerous to human health.” Responding to questions from journalists, the suspect, who hails from Njikoka in Anambra State, claimed he was forced to revalidate 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; Okeke who claimed has been in the business for over six years said retailers come to his shop to buy them. On where the products were imported from, he said the products were smuggled from Ghana and that he had been in 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.” 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 8, 2015.

Nigeria pharma industry faces annihilation – Akpa

‘Reverse Common External Tariff, NDDG policy to save us’

The embattled Nigeria pharma industry which has been struggling amidst harsh socio-political, economic and religious crisis and conditions recently cried out that it might witness collapse with the take-off of both the Common External Tariff (CET) and a wholesale implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG). Pharm. Simon Okey Akpa, Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) and Managing Director, SKG Pharma Limited, made an SOS (save our soul) appeal, when he addressed an international conference recently in Lagos. CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) who was there has the excerpts.

Background of challenges of Nigeria pharma industry
It is a fact that essential medicines are critical to healthcare delivery in any country, and Nigeria is no exception. With a population above 160 million people growing at an average rate of three per cent, a robust and efficient healthcare delivery system is essential for Nigeria. A vibrant local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry will not only guarantee the nation’s march to word self-sufficiency in essential medicine needs but will also provide gainful employment and boost the economy.

Despite having over 150 pharmaceutical factories in Nigeria out of which four have complied with World Health Organisation (WHO) current Good Manufacturing practice (CGMP), the industry continues to struggle. The situation has now been worsened by recent government policies; specifically the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Common External Tariff (CET), and the new drug distribution guideline, both of which threatened to annihilate the industry leading to job loss, dependence on imported medicines and reversal of gain made in the fight against fake drugs.

Common External Tariff
The recently adopted (June 2015) Common External Tariff (CET) is a potent threat to this industry that is gasping for breath. The CET was adopted at the Heads of State Summit in October 2013, in Dakar, Senegal. This policy places zero tariffs on finished imported medicine, while essential raw and packaging materials required by the industry for local medicine production attracts from five per cent to 20 per cent. This policy, if implemented reverses the gains made from the nation’s effort to attain self-sufficiency in essential medicine and opens all doors for total importation of finished medicines.

It is regrettable that the damaging consequences of the policy on the local pharmaceutical manufacturing sector were not considered despite our desperate attempts to draw attention to this.
This policy undoubtedly spells doom for the local industry as imported medicines will become far cheaper than locally produced ones. This situation is inimical to the survival of the local pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, and there is a need for an urgent review.

The laudable achievement of having four World Health Organisation’s(WHO) certified manufacturing facilities was earned through the initiative of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and individual investment efforts of the companies involved.
The industry has invested an estimated 100 billion naira in various facility upgrades over the last five years. These investments have not brought about the desired benefits largely due to neglect by successive governments and lack of patronage.

Implications of implementation of CET
The CET if implemented as it is will have far-reaching implications on the industry and the country. This includes the following:

The industry currently employs, directly and indirectly, over one million persons. A significant number of these stand the risk losing their jobs if the local manufacturing sector is unable to sustain its current fiscal situation following the adoption of the CET.

Idle capacity and loss of investment
The lack of demand for locally manufactured medicines as a result of cheap imports will lead to idle capacities and negatively impact previous investments in the sector worth over 300 billion naira.

Increase in Fake and Substandard Products
A weak local manufacturing sector will inevitably lead to an. influx of cheap imported medicines of doubtful quality.

Skills stagnation
A weak or non-existent local manufacturing industry would lead to a dearth of skilled manpower and ultimately a massive brain drain from the industry. Others are considerable depletion of scarce foreign exchange due to continued dependence on imports.

No Contribution to GDP Growth
Developed countries such as Germany and the United States strengthened their   economies through industry. Countries that pay little or no attention to manufacturing end up with weak economies.
A complete review of this policy is essential for the continued survival and growth of the local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. A reversal is necessary if the National Drug Policy target of local production of 70 per cent of the Nations essential Drug needs.
There is therefore, the need to protect the local pharmaceutical manufacturers and encourage industrialization as self – sufficiency in essential medicines has national security implications. Nigeria’s responsibility to minimize the effect of diseases on the economic, social and political stability of the country cannot be abdicated to imported   medicines.

The New National Drug Distribution Guidelines
An important aspect of the pharmaceutical industry’s value chain is the   distribution of medicines. The importance of an efficient distribution system in the sector cannot be overemphasized as it ensures that quality medicines readily get to the consumer at reasonable prices. The current drug distribution system in Nigeria is chaotic and continues to expose consumers to the dangers of Substandard, Spurious, Falsified and Falsely-Labelled Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products.

We must applaud the Federal Government and NAFDAC for efforts to sanitize the local Drug Distribution System. In a bid to find a lasting solution to the medicine distribution challenge, the government (through the Federal Ministry of Health) introduced the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG). However, the NDDG in its current form has essentially handed over the pharmaceutical industry to Cartels and Syndicates, which will increase the cost of essential medicines in the country by inefficient extension of the distribution chain!

The PMGMAN, in a position paper communicated to key stakeholders in the industry, was explicit in its support of the Federal Government in her effort to sanitize medicine distribution in Nigeria, we subsequently put forward a proposal based on a realistic, sustainable and evidence-based approach to solving the current drug distribution challenge in Nigeria. This proposal was accepted by the majority of the stakeholders, including the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), as a template to form the foundation for a revised model.

In spite of these consultations and the proposed alternative model, the FMOH, in a press briefing on June 26, this year insisted on the full implementation of the NDDG effective from July 1.
The Guideline has purportedly restricted sale of all medicines by manufacturers and importers to only a few, mostly foreign owned, distribution companies who are required to sell to our current wholesalers. According to the FMOH, implementation was premised on the fact that these Mega Distribution Companies have made investments based on the proposed NDDG.

Here are the potential consequences of the implementation of the NDDG at this time.

Significant reduction in access to essential medicines
The new government has made accessibility to essential medicines a priority for its healthcare agenda. Currently, there is little or no infrastructure in place to run the NDDG, despite the FMOH’s claim to the contrary and there is a real risk of persons living in certain areas of the country being denied access to key essential medicines. We challenge the FMOH to substantiate its claim about availability of infrastructure.

Hike in the price of essential medicines
Another objective of the new administration is to make medicines affordable to all citizens. The NDDG will add an additional layer to the current distribution model. The new layer will increase the cost of medicines by 25 to 35 per cent.

Elimination of the current wholesalers
The backbone of the current distribution network is the open markets, which serve as major sources of purchase to hospitals, wholesalers, and retailers. These open markets, which control about 80 per cent of the drug distribution system in volume and value, would be closed with the advent of the NDDG. PMG-MAN is of the opinion that operators in the open drug markets should be acknowledged and accommodated in any planned distribution system. To accomplish this, we are proposing the setting up of “Regulated Wholesale Centres” across the country, with full control supervision of the regulatory agencies – NAFDAC, PCN Policy etc and operated in line with pharmacy laws.

More than one million persons currently work for manufacturers and importers directly and indirectly. If the NDDG is allowed to take-off as currently proposed, there will be significant loss of jobs as most manufacturers would have to lay off their sales staff whose services will no longer be required.

Loss of receivables
Over 100 billion naira (represented as receivables) of the industry’s working capital is tied down at the wholesale level of the value chain. This amount would be lost as wholesalers will claim force majeure if not accommodated in the new drug distribution arrangement.

Loss of business
The turnover of many pharmaceutical companies will be reduced and business will close down. In addition, the turnover of many pharmaceutical companies will be drastically reduced and SMEs and other investments will be discouraged.

Inefficiencies and loss of investment in the pharmaceutical value chain
MDDCs, the new layer added by the NDDG will not have the capacity to distribute every NAFDAC registered product, which currently stands at over 100,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) from over 200 manufacturers and 300 importers. The inability to adequately distribute these products would negatively impact on investment in the sector which currently stands at over 300 billion naira.

Our position as an industry is that a new distribution model be allowed to ‘evolve’ after the wholesale system is sanitized. This approach will allow for inclusive participation of all current stakeholders and especially the wholesalers. This approach will also minimize possible collateral damage that may occur if key stakeholders are not engaged.

To this end, PMG – MAN is proposing a deferment of the implementation and refinement of the policy to reasonably accommodate all stakeholders. The new model must ‘evolve’ to allow for a sustainable, reliable and rewarding distribution system Nigeria’s healthcare industry.

That Import Adjustment Tax of 20 per cent is immediately imposed on imported Finished Pharmaceutical Products with HS Code 3003 & 3004 because Nigerian Manufacturers have the capacity to produce these medicines.

In addition, under the National List within the CET, input into pharmaceutical Manufacturing (Raw materials, Excipients and packaging) should be allowed to be imported at zero by indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturers. We need to keep Nigerian factories running and not the factories overseas. Failure to review this policy holds dire consequences for the pharmaceutical industry and the nation at large. The implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guideline on July 1, 2015, is unrealistic.

The National Drug Distribution Guidelines be reviewed in consultation with stakeholders – Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for a proper framework for implementation to be put in place by federal government.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 1, 2015.

Fidson clamours for preventive action against hepatitis

Concerned about the prevalence of Hepatitis and the alarming rate of Hepatitis infection in the country, Fidson Healthcare Plc, has called on all Nigerians to embark on nationwide preventive actions against the menace of Hepatitis virus in the country, in commemoration of the World Hepatitis Day on July 28. 

A statement signed by Sylvester Iriogbe, Assistant Manager, Corporate Communication and Corporate Services on Wednesday, said that the pharmaceutical company which among the leaders in the industry, advised Nigerians to prevent viral hepatitis infection by getting tested, vaccinated and seeking adequate treatment for the string of hepatitis viruses, known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, which affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver diseases. 

The company made this call, following various media reports on statistics credited to the Federal Ministry of Health, which states that over 20 million Nigerians are presently infected with the Hepatitis virus. This figure represents a substantial percentage of the 400 million people reportedly living with hepatitis B and C worldwide, according to WHO reports, which also state that 1.4 million people die due to these infections every year. 

Fidson’s Marketing Manager, Mr. Friday Enaholo, said this report is very alarming, as it shows that on the average, one out of every twelve Nigerians is infected with the Hepatitis Virus. “This data is worrisome and calls for national preventive actions that should involve every Nigerian. Every stakeholder within the health sector and member of the public has a role to play, either in the area of policy formulation, compliance and even as basic as living a healthy and hygienic lifestyle”, he stated. Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by one of the five hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D and E. They are transmitted through different routes: Hepatitis A and E through contaminated food and water; Hepatitis B – through unsafe blood and other bodily fluids; Hepatitis C – mostly through infectious blood; and Hepatitis D – serving as an additional infection in the presence of Hepatitis B. These viruses all cause acute hepatitis which is characterized by fatigue, loss of appetite, fever and jaundice. 

Most persons fully recover, but a small proportion of persons can die from acute hepatitis. In addition, hepatitis B and C infections can become chronic leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Mr. Enaholo further said that a bigger concern is the fact that these diseases are preventable, but most people, especially those living in rural or semi-urban areas of developing countries don’t even know how to prevent them. “This is why as a company, we are actively participating in this global campaign by enlightening Nigerians, through all possible communication channels, on how they can prevent the spread of Hepatitis”. 

He therefore advised Nigerians to make deliberate and preventive efforts by steering clear of unsafe blood, unsafe injections, and sharing of drug-injection equipment that can all result in hepatitis infection. He also maintained that safe and effective vaccine can protect from hepatitis B infection for life. World Hepatitis Day is celebrated every year on July 28 by WHO and World Hepatitis Alliance. 

The Global Hepatitis Programme was established in 2011 following a World Health Assembly resolution. The theme for this year’s World Hepatitis Day is “Prevent Hepatitis. Act Now”. Fidson’s support for the WHA and WHO campaign against hepatitis is another demonstration of the company’s concern for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians and its commitment to adding value to the lives of Nigerians, in line with its corporate slogan, ‘we value life.’

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 1, 2015.

Cerebral palsy: Experts, CP persons, families team up to tackle condition

Globally over one billion people live with disabilities (15 per cent of world population), while 17 million people live with Cerebral Palsy (CP). 

Out of this number, children between zero and 18 years make up between 93 million and 150 million,   even as majority of people of them are adult. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive neuro-developmental condition initiated early in life that persists into adulthood and could lead to loss or impairment of motor function. Experts are worried over the pains that   children and adults   living with CP go through as a result of neglect by the families, society and government, during the different life stages. 

Aging for those with CP has to do with progression of developmental changes that ultimately lessen a person’s ability to cope successfully with internal needs and with the demands of the environment. During the early stages of aging (infancy, childhood, adolescence) skills and capabilities continue to increase; in the middle stages (that is, adulthood) maintenance of function is the focus. Statistics shows that people with CP form a varied population. There are over 13.5 million Nigerians who are closely connected to people living with cerebral palsy in country, with majority not being able to afford the resources required for adequate management of the disorder, according to available statistics. 

L- r : Mr. Layi Anjorin (Consultant, Physiotherapist) Mr. Ani Bassey (Principal, Lani Group), Titi Tade (Chief Social Worker), Mrs. Alaba Gbadebo, Co-founder, Executive Director, Benola, a Cerebral Palsy Initiative; Air-vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo, Co-founder, CEO, Benola and Dr Charles Umeh, Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos(CMUL) and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psycologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH) at the Benola third National Cerebral Palsy Family Forum, weekend.
The record also shows that there are over 650,000 adults and mostly children living with cerebral palsy in the country. Even with the high prevalence rate of the disorder in the country, experts believe it was one of the most ignored medical conditions by stakeholders, as no attention has been given to it. Adults living with the condition hardly have their physiological, emotional and social needs met. Experts have confirmed that most treatment and research is done on children with cerebral palsy, while little research has been done so far on aging and cerebral palsy. 

It is because of this gap that Benola, a Cerebral Palsy (CP) Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, which focuses on reaching out to people living with cerebral palsy, organised a National Cerebral Palsy Family Forum in Lagos, over the weekend to sensitise Nigerians on the disorder as well as task government and stakeholders on supporting people living with it. Tagged; ‘Benola third National Cerebral Palsy Family Forum,’ the event witnessed over 240 participants made up of children, adults with CP, families of people affected with the diseases and experts from different fields, including health. While speaking at the forum, a Psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Umeh, Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos(CMUL) and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psycologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH), 
called for increased attention for adults living with the disability, stressing that the little attention being given to the neurological disorder in the country were been given to children living with the condition, rather than expanding the attention to even adults who were also affected. The forum also afforded the opportunity for persons living with the disability to tell their stories. 

Their major concern happened to be stigmatisation, but, some narrated why and how they did not allow that deter them from pursuing their life dreams. For instance, Tobiloba Ajayi has been living with the disability since she was born, but has cut a niche for herself despite the unfavourable compliments she receives from the society. “I did not let the stigmatisation affect me. I am presently a Masters degree holder in International Law with two publications to my name. Today, I am doing something impactful for myself and the society,” she added. Tobi, as friends fondly call her, attributed her success to what her parents did right during her developmental stage, adding that she was trained like every other child, as against isolation of children with cerebral palsy by parents and caregivers. 

The same goes for Olubusola Akinsola, who is also a Masters degree holder, who, despite all odds, strived to be a better person through social integration and striving for excellence. Akinsola, who had impaired speech and could barely speak clearly, said awareness was key to eradicating stigmatisation of the condition. “People should understand that cerebral palsy is not a disease, but only a condition,” she added. She also called on other persons living with the disability to strive for excellence and prove that they can achieve their life dreams. Also speaking at the forum, the Chief Medical Social Worker, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Ms. Titi Tade, called on parents and caregivers to understand the various characters that comes with the different stages of development of people living with cerebral palsy. 

“For an affected child of zero and three-years-old, the best thing to do for such is to teach him or her basics, otherwise, ones its missed, it would be difficult to them. At age four and six, the child wants to perform tasks on their own, no matter how long it takes. At this stage, they should be supported to explore and find answers to the little things they seek,” she said. Tade, explained that one of the most important phase of management of the disorder was between the ages of seven and 12 years, adding that most parents or caregivers tend to isolate the kids because they can no longer be taken every where due to their size. But she warned that their isolated at this stage could make them loose their ability and opportunity to develop social skills. “Between ages 13 and 18 is one of the most difficult stages for the child, either emotionally, physically or socially, because it is a difficult period for their physical, emotional and social changes,” she added. 

For ages 19 to 40, Tade, explained that one of the things that pre occupies affected people at that stage was how to earn income, get independent and find intimacy. Adding that they must be supported to achieving these. Tade lamented that people with cerebral palsy were widely ignored due to ignorance, culture, religion and unwillingness to accept diagnosis. She called on parents, the society and the government to see persons with cerebral palsy as people who needs love no matter the inconvenience. “We need integrated approach on how to deal with disabilities where Health Care Providers plus family plus person living with disability work together to achieve a psychological, emotional and physical balance to ensure that children with cerebral palsy transition smoothly into adulthood rather than dropping out of the system and just become statistics,” she added.

Similarly, the Co-founder of the initiative, Mrs. Alaba Gbadebo, said CP was the most misunderstood medical condition in Nigeria as only few people know about the disorder as well as how to manage it. She said apart from the lack of awareness in the society, there were other major problems which have compounded tackling of the issue, including inadequate facilities and lack of trained man power. To her, this was making it difficult for parents to find reasonable and affordable options for managing such children, resulting in high infant mortality rate and untold hardship to parents who lack proper understanding of the condition. Gbadebo decried the lack of attention which the government, health institutions and corporate organisations has given to the neurological disorder, adding that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians were suffering from the disorder; a reason she feel was enough for priority to be given to the condition – just like the attention malaria, HIV/AIDS, polio, among others were presently receiving in the country. She said: 

“There should be a law by the National Assembly and the various state assembliesto supports people with special needs, especially people living with cerebral palsy. For example, there should be laws that mandates every building in the country to be disability friendly. There should be special bus stops for them, as well as laws that would allow people at bus stops or other public places to give preference to persons with disability,” she said. She stressed that in some countries, parents and primary health care givers were being paid for taking care of people with cerebral palsy, because managing the condition has been proven to be expensive. Gbadebo believed cerebral palsy was the most expensive disability in the world to manage, adding that such people would have to continuously see various specialists, including neurologists, optometrists, epidemiologists, nutritionists, among others. This, she said was necessary because people living with cerebral palsy often have various health conditions needing medical attention; sometimes, all at ones. 

Mrs. Gbadebo, who Co –founded the initiative with her husband, Air Vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo (rtd), said one of the reasons why they established the initiative was because they knew what it was taking care of people with cerebral palsy. “Our son, Olaoluwa, 19, is living with the condition, and we know how much resources we spend taking care of him, hence we decided to establish this foundation, so that we can be a voice to other millions of Nigerians who are been affected in one way or the other by the neurological disorder,” she added. Stressing further on the need for the government to support people with cerebral palsy, she said as the affected children grow up, they tend to have more problems; ranging from tooth decay due to inability to brush their teeth, ear problem, speech, eye problem, among several other issues. “For example; my son lives on 30 tablets every day and these drugs are expensive. 

If parents are left alone to care for their children with cerebral palsy, it would most likely be difficult for them,” she said. While lamenting the lack of special schools for the disorder, she called on the government to take measures that would make affected persons know they also count in the country. “When I was in London, my son attended a special school. The school would send a bus to pick him up and bring him back home after closing, and they patiently teach them because patience is needed while dealing with them,” she added. She also called on parents who isolate their affected children due to stigmatisation,to cultivate the habit of bringing them out to socialise with other children, as this would also help their development. 

In his presentation at the occasion, Mr. Layi Anjorin, Specialized Pediatrics and Developmental Physiotherapist and Deputy Director Pediatrics Physiotherapy said that as patients with CP grow older, they begin to face new challenges that were formerly not present. According to Anjorin, nobody is usually prepared for the changes even as he lamented lack of knowledge of health care providers in dealing with emotional and social issues of CP. “There is a lack of information from health care providers and families about care of CP in adulthood.” No doubt, there is need for integrated approach in dealing with disabilities where Health Care Providers +Family+ Person living With Disability work together to achieve a psychological, emotional and physical balance to ensure that children with CP transits smoothly to adulthood rather than dropping out of the system and just become statistics.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 1, 2015.

Medical institute groans under paucity of funds

…Setback to research, development of drugs 

Unless there is quick intervention by government to address the appalling issue of dearth of funds in many public institutions, especially the health sector, attainment of quality research and proper health indices may remain a mirage. Giving the indication recently was the management of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) who lamented the dwindling state of the foremost research institution in the country. 

A look at the state of infrastructure within the Yaba (Lagos) premises of the institute showed several dilapidated structures, even abandoned projects. According to the management, the institute has not received a dime for capital expenditure from the Federal Government this year. And to raise capacity of researchers and avail some equipment, NIMR is currently on self-help – crying for public support. 

This was confirmed at a recent symposium to commemorate fifth year anniversary of Prof. Innocent Ujah as the Director General of the institute.   Through the support of local and international partners, the institute is today proud of a Biomedical Training and Cancer Research Centre, due for commissioning in September. But, where the support is not forthcoming, like the case of providing the institute a modern library, the projects are abandoned. The DG noted that the institute had in fact had perennial shortages in capital allocation over the years. A fact sheet revealed that out of the N90million budgeted for capital expenditure in 2010 only N29million was released. 

NIMR library abandoned since 2014
The budget was N298million in 2011, of which the institute got N95million. This year, it was N85million budget and midway into the year, none has been released.   Investigation by Newswatch Times showed that NIMR might not be the only government institutions in this pain. What holds for NIMR holds for other parastatals and agencies of the Federal Ministry of Health like the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and National AIDS Control Agency (NACA) among others. NIMR is the apex health research institute established by the Act of 1972 to conduct research into diseases of public health importance in Nigeria and develop structures for the dissemination of research findings, while providing the enabling environment and facilities for health research and training. 

Despite, the gradual crippling effect vis-a-vis poor funding, Ujah noted that NIMR had recently shown how critical it is in the case management and emergency response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014. But, a lot more, including a possible cure for the disease could have been achieved if government had been committed to research over the years.   He recalled that the epidemic, brought into Nigeria by US-born Liberian Patrick Sawyer, was an opportunity for Nigeria to upgrade her foremost research institute for contemporary relevance. It is today recounted as a missed opportunity.   “On our part,” Ujah said, “we wrote position papers and sent them to appropriate authorities but, up till today, nobody has asked of its content.” “This is what we mean by missed opportunity. 

We think that our laboratory, of Bio-safety Level 3, should have been upgraded to Level 4 to help us deal with live viruses, because we don’t want anyone to die in the process of doing research. We have missed that opportunity, and we don’t know if Ebola will come again, though we don’t pray for such but we have to prepare,” he said. The NIMR boss further said that the country lack sufficient capacity for research generally and not only in NIMR. For NIMR though, “our location is a major disadvantage.”   “We are supposed to be in Abuja by now and close to the seat of government. 

Anything that involves government is in Abuja. If you are in Lagos and think government (Federal) can hear you, then you are wasting your time.” Relaying the track record of institutional poor funding, Ujah said: “The funding was abysmally poor before I came in but from 2011, the budget has increased to about N298 million but the release was N95 million. So, when they say NIMR gets only N95 million, it is not only us, but also everywhere. We are saying that it should not be a cut-across reduction. If you have one billion naira budget and it is reduced by 40 per cent, then there is still a lot left. But, if it just N100 million that is reduced by 40 per cent, then almost nothing is left. 

The reduction is just too mathematical, I must say, he said adding: “We did well in 2013; it went to about N470 million out of which about N90 million was released. Nothing has changed. This year, nothing has been released and we are in July. I can tell you that the money for capital was N50 million. Whether it will come or not, I don’t know. “It is not for lack of trying. We tried in 2013 and we got something. This is the stark reality; if you want breakthrough, then you must invest in research. But, we are fond of wanting to reap where we didn’t sow.” Ujah further said that the researchers were, however, taking consolation in the new administration and the National Health Act, to give them a change in fortune. 

Besides the Health Act availing universal health coverage for all Nigerians, it also promises funding for all health institutions, which includes the research institutes. Expressing optimism, Ujah said: “We are hopeful that funding for health research that will inform policies, will improve, especially now that we are in the season of change. We hope for positive changes so that NIMR will be able to carry out more researches and also make breakthrough in medical researches.   “As we speak, the funding is shamefully small, but health research is very expensive. “You must deliberately invest in research if you want to make breakthrough. The National Institute of Health in the US and MRC of England are heavily invested in.   “We believe that the Federal Government and private sector will do the same. 

Research, whether it is health, engineering or agriculture, thrives development. Nigeria has the capacity and with political will, we can support researches to boost our development drive,” he said. Dr. Mohammed Lecky, guest speaker at the symposium, while making his presentation at the symposium, urged the researchers to exercise a cautious optimism, saying very little would be achieved without deliberate effort to implement the Act’s provisions. Lecky, who is the Executive Director, Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), said that the provisions were as vital to universal health coverage as they are to funding groundbreaking medical researches. 

The National Health Act represents the first statutory and comprehensive law in Nigeria that serves as a framework for the regulation, development and management of a national health system and also set standard for rendering health services in Nigeria. Against this background, the Executive Director, HERFON, called on the Federal Government to fully implement the National Health Act. Lecky made the call describing the act as a rallying framework toward achieving universal health coverage in the country. The Executive Director, HEFRON said: ‘’The act is inclusive and unifies health services for the regulation, development and the management of the nation’s health system. 

‘’If this act is well implemented without corruption, it will reshape the Nigerian health landscape to the extent that all Nigerians, without any exception, would be entitled to basic minimum package to health services,” he added. ‘’Healthcare will be accessible and affordable to all. Perfecting the strategies of implementing the health act is the only way to achieve universal health coverage in Nigeria,’’ he said. Lecky concluded: “Finally, as we transition to the post-2015 era, the inherent capacity of the National Health Act to re-shape tie Nigeria health landscape is as real as it is ambitious. 

It is a unifying legislation, coherent, clear and an unambiguously most powerful piece of legislation (some would say since independence) that is aimed at social equity and justice. “We should have good reasons to expect great things on account of the National Health Act in years ahead. But, can we rise to this collective challenge? Lecky asked rhetorically?

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 25, 2015.

Lagos dissociates self from admission racket

Lagos State Government has dissociated itself from fake advertorials making the rounds on the internet about admission into the State School of Nursing. 

A statement signed by Adeola Salako, Director, Press & Public Relations, said that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Modele Osunkiyesi, who made this known on Thursday, through a signed disclaimer notice to the public stated that the attention of the Ministry of Health has been drawn to the activities of some unscrupulous group of people who place the fake advertisements on the internet. 

She further revealed that these dubious people invite unsuspecting individuals to pay into their personal accounts. She urged members of the Public to disregard any information on the internet about purported admission forms adding that all enquiries regarding admission into the State School of Nursing should be channeled to the Coordinator, Lagos State School of Nursing Complex, Alimosho General Hospital, Igando. She further added that clarifications can be obtained from the following telephone numbers; 08176981957 or 08033061863. Osunkiyesi while also advising members of the public to be vigilant stated that anyone who deals with these touts does so at his or her own risk.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 25, 2015.

Naturally remedy to prevent snoring

Snoring happens when you breathe through the mouth during sleeping, thereby producing that awfully embarrassing loud noise. Snoring has been medically researched to lead to eventual health issues. 

There are a lot of so called remedies and quick fix pills and medicines and contraptions that are out in the market these days. Some have attempted stop snoring through surgery. But it is often good advice to resort to natural methods first. Most of these natural methods are not only effective, but also possess several advantages like having no side effects. 

It is also a more permanent cure without breaking the bank. Sleep on your side. This allows you to breathe through your nose and not through your mouth. This opens up your nasal passages as opposed to sleeping on your back which pushes air to be breathed out through your mouth; thus making you snore. 

Do exercises that help to stop snoring naturally. These are non-evasive choices that focus on controlling the movements of the tongue and jaw which are the parts that are involved in snoring. Regular practice and exercise will eventually result to no more snoring at all. 

Be careful of your food. 
Obesity is, after all, one of the reasons of snoring so you would need to avoid high calorie food and start eating healthier. Also try to avoid eating heavy meals and opt for easy to digest food during dinner time. 

Avoid alcohol. 
Alcohol must be avoided as well as excessive amounts of caffeine. Laying off on tobacco also helps. 

Develop good hygienic habits before bed time. 
Following a routine programs your body’s system to rest more peacefully. 

Lose weight. 
Weight helps some people but not everyone. This is because thin people also snore. If you’ve gained weight and started snoring and did not snore before you gained weight, weight loss may help. If you gain weight around your neck, it squeezes the internal diameter of the throat, making it more likely to collapse during sleep, triggering snoring, according to experts. 

Open nasal passages. 
If snoring starts in your nose, keeping nasal passages open may help. It allows air to move through slower, according to studies. A hot shower before you go to bed can help open nasal passages. Also, keep a bottle of saltwater rinse in the shower. Rinse your nose out with it while you’re showering to help open up passages. 

Change your pillows. 
Allergens in your bedroom and in your pillow may contribute to snoring. When did you last dust the overhead ceiling fan? Replace your pillows? Dust mites accumulate in pillows and can cause allergic reactions that can lead to snoring. Allowing pets to sleep on the bed causes you to breathe in animal dander, another common irritant. 

Stay well hydrated. 
Drink plenty of fluids. According to studies, secretions in your nose and soft palate become stickier when you’re dehydrated and this can create more snoring. Experts also recommends that healthy women should have about 11 cups of total water (from all drinks and food) a day, while men require about 16 cups.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 25, 2015.

WHO to certify Nigeria polio-free in 2017

Nigeria is one step closer to achieving the goal of eradicating polio in 2017, as it has been one year since the last case of polio was reported in the country, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said yesterday. 

Geoffrey Njoku - Media and External Relations, NPHCDA 
The NPHCDA statement, which was signed by Media and External Relations, Geoffrey Njoku, said the last case of polio in Nigeria was reported exactly a year ago, in a 16-months-old boy from Sumaila LGA in Kano State. If all pending laboratory investigations return negative in the next few weeks, Nigeria will officially be taken off the list of polio-endemic countries. 

However, Nigeria will only be certified polio free by WHO in 2017, provided it maintains its zero case status, further strengthens its surveillance system, improves routine immunization and maintains high quality campaigns. Consequently, achieving one year without polio is just one of the hurdles the country needs to surmount before being certified polio free in 2017. As early as 2012, Nigeria, with 122 poliovirus cases, had reported the highest number of polio cases globally and was the polio epicentre of the world. According to the immediate past Minister of State for Health, Engr. Fidelis Nwankwo, said, “Our eyes are on the prize but this is the most critical time in the programme. Because the stakes are so high, we know that the eyes of the world are on us all to deliver and there is no room for complacency until we achieve eradication in 2017. We are far from there yet. 

“We’re really excited by the historic progress that has been made here in Nigeria; however we can’t get distracted by this progress. We are now looking ahead to our next challenge, which is to sustain the momentum on an emergency footing until 2017, with strong government oversight and continued levels of funding, so that Nigeria can hit the three-year mark with no cases and finally eradicate this crippling disease.” If this progress is sustained with no re-infection and surveillance remains strong, Nigeria and the rest of Africa will achieve polio eradication by 2017. 

Government and partners reiterate that it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Polio campaigns will need to continue and reach all children in the country several times a year. While there is polio anywhere in this world, every child is at risk. Surveillance needs to become even more sensitive, so that no virus will be missed. And routine immunization coverage needs to improve significantly, especially in the northern states. Nigeria launched an ‘all-out’ effort, with focused attention, resources and activities on the remaining polio strongholds of the country, particularly the northern states. 

Special approaches were developed in the security compromised areas, including a focus on reaching the internally displaced populations. We recognise that it will only be through strong commitment, coordination underpinned by accountability, that Nigeria will be in a position to stop transmission and sustain the gains through to eradication in 2017. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 24, 2015.

NAFDAC unveils plot to discredit its leadership

• Dismisses allegation of  corruption 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has refuted any malpractice in the agency, especially financial mismanagement, which it has attributed to false claims in some quarters with ulterior motives. 

A press statement yesterday, signed by the Director, Special Duties, Abubakar Jimoh, NAFDAC said it has been inundated by concerns from stakeholders and strategic partners following a recent publication attributed to a director of finance and accounts, Ademola Mogbojuri, accusing the Director-General of the agency, Paul Orhii of corrupt practices. Jimoh said the agency was forced to react to the publication because of the damage it might cause the organisation, if it is allowed to stand. He said: “The publication would have been ignored except for the wrong information it would send to the public. 

“We wish to state categorically that these allegations are baseless, false, misleading and frivolous because nothing of such has happened under the watch of Dr. Paul Orhii as Director-General of NAFDAC.” In refuting the claims, Jimoh implied that the director behind the publication had a score to settle, because of his redeployment from his post. “It is a curious paradox that the so called director of finance and accounts who has been superintending over contract awards, payments and other due processes since 2010 would now turn around to make such false and disparaging allegations against the chief executive just when he was redeployed to another directorate due to his incompetence and insubordination. 

“In any case, redeployment and movement of officers in the civil service are a normal routine. This is not the first time since the creation of NAFDAC that directors are reshuffled. “In most cases, some directors have been redeployed to up to five directorates within three years in the agency. This is why we are at a loss to decipher what the hullabaloo is all about except to believe that he is being used as a willing tool in the hands of counterfeiters to derail the focused administration in its quest to safeguard the health of the nation,” the statement said. 

According to Jimoh, there is a plot to discredit the agency and its leadership by certain interests whose trade in unwholesome food and counterfeit drugs has been affected by Orhii’s proactive actions to ensure that the mandate of the establishment in protecting Nigerians is upheld. “We are therefore not surprised that these allegations are coming up from a director who is already disgruntled and finding ways of hitting back at the agency and the chief executive. “NAFDAC will also take actions within the extant civil service rules, which have spelt out measures to take against civil servants who are involved in acts of insubordination, gross misconduct and dereliction of duties.”

The statement also recalled that the NAFDAC chapter of the Medical and Health Workers Union held a press conference in Lagos recently where it applauded the action of the agency’s management and insisted that the officer must comply with the redeployment as director of the NAFDAC Training Institute, Kaduna. 

In addition, Jimoh said, the union embarked on a strike action in 2014 to demand the payment of the outstanding 28 days’ allowance and other staff claims duly approved by the Director-General but which were withheld by Mogbojuri. “NAFDAC, under the able leadership of Dr. Orhii, has recorded monumental achievements in areas of infrastructural transformation, regulatory and enforcement activities, prosecution of offenders, capacity building and international collaborations, which launched the agency into the league of top-20 medicine regulatory authorities in the world,” the statement said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 23, 2015.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

‘Whole grains, fruits lower blood pressure’

Mrs Funmi Lawal, a Dietician with Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, has advised hypertensive patients to eat the right foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, to lower their blood pressure. Lawal said on Monday in Abuja, that whole grains had more fibre and nutrients than refined grains. 

According to her, lifestyle intervention is the first line of treatment and the foundation for treating hypertension. “You can control your blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight; and focus on whole grains because they have more fibre and nutrients than refined grains. “For instance, use brown rice instead of white rice; whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta and whole-grain bread instead of white bread. “Look for products labelled 100 per cent whole grain or 100 per cent whole wheat. Grains are naturally low in fat; so, avoid spreading on butter or adding cream and cheese sauces.’’ 

In addition, she recommended the inclusion of legumes, nuts, lean poultry, fish, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. “Increase your vegetable intake (four to five servings a day) tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, sweet potatoes, greens and other vegetables — are full of fibre, vitamins, and such minerals as potassium and magnesium. “Examples of one serving include one cup raw leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables. “Include fruits in your daily menu plan (four to five servings a day). Many fruits need little preparation to become a healthy part of a meal or snack.’’ 

According to her, examples of one serving is one medium fruit or half cup of fresh juice. She stressed that the use of meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and eggs should be limited in diet. The dietician further said that trans-fat commonly found in such processed foods as crackers, baked goods and fried items should be avoided. Lawal also said that people should limit alcohol intake, engage in weight shedding, regular physical activity, and reduce sodium to no more than 1,500 mg/day. 

According to her, these lifestyle modifications are considered the best way to treat hypertension. She said that since high blood pressure was a leading cause of heart disease, it was important to have one’s blood pressure checked regularly in order to keep it within a healthy range. “Visit a dietician to help you manage your diet adequately. “Physicians recommend that one maintains blood pressure at or below 120/80 mmHg, while high blood pressure is medically defined as any reading higher than 140/90 mmHg,’’ Lawal said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 23, 2015.

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