Saturday, 19 September 2015

PMGMAN boss chides pharmaceutical companies defaulting in producing sickle cell drugs

The Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (PMG-MAN), Pharm. Okey Akpa (FPSN), has taken to the cleaners some drug-producing companies who demonstrate nonchalant attitude towards products they classified as “Orphan drugs.”

Akpa, spoke at the at the opening ceremony of a three-day Nigeria Pharma Manufacturers Expo 2015 in Lagos, which concluded yesterday and was staged for stakeholders in the health sector to exchange information, products, services and ideas.

In his key note address at the exhibition, with the theme: ‘The Nigerian Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry & International Competitiveness,’ PMG-MAN Chairman lamented that a major challenge in Africa is that many International Pharmaceutical Companies are not interested in research and development investments for conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and malaria that are peculiar to the African continent.
The three-day programme was declared opened by the Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii in Ikeja, Lagos.

The PMG-MAN boss highlighted the achievements recorded by the Nigerian pharmaceutical companies, which he said included the manufacturing of drugs for neglected tropical diseases.

L-R Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control
(NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii; Chairman, PMGMAN and MD/CEO, SKG Pharmaceutical Limited,
Mr. Okey Akpa; Operations Director, Fidson Healthcare Plc, Mr. Biola Adetayo and
Managing Director/CEO, May & Baker Nigeria Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor and other
dignitaries at the opening of the Nigeria Pharma Manufacturers EXPO
in Lagos…Monday. Photo: Bode Agbede
“The Nigerian pharmaceutical industry has paid adequate attention to the manufacturing of drugs for diseases prevailing in Africa, which international companies are not interested in, such as anti-malaria, sickle cell disease medicines,” he said.

According to him, “Nigeria is currently the biggest pharmaceutical manufacturing country in West Africa. It accounts for more than 65 per cent of the local manufacture of medicines relevant to the people and diseases of our nation and region. They are anti-malaria medicines, anti-retroviral medicines for HIV/AIDS, herbal medicines and medicines for sickle cell diseases and many others.

The chairman stated that to make impact on the global stage, many manufacturers in Nigeria have processed Expression of Interest (EOI) with the World Health Organization (WHO) for Pre-qualification of Products-Manufacturers processing WHO Pre-qualification and have invested over $50 million in the last five years.
“Manufacturers processing WHO prequalification have invested over 50 million dollars in the last five years,” he said.

He further noted that they have also developed manufactured and registered products for The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health (UNCoLs) such as: Zinc Sulphate/Oral Rehydration Solutions to manage Diarrhoea, Chlorhexidine gel to manage Cord care and Amoxicillin Dispersible Tablets.

He acknowledged the Support of NAFDAC, Federal Government of Nigeria an Organization (WAHO), the WHO Pre-qualification of Medicine Team and finally the Boards of these companies for their patriotism and commitment to the Nigerian Project.

He however said the newly introduced Common External Tariffs (CET) in West Africa cast a shadow on the industry in Nigeria.

“ECOWAS External Tariffs (CET) is the single factor threatening the industry today. Before its introduction finished pharmaceutical products under the Import HS codes, 3003 and 3004 attracted up to 20 per cent duty. But CET does not allow this. Rather, it attracts zero percent on finished products into countries.
“It is individual countries that are allowed to use protection tax on products which it has capacity for, and that is what we are asking for in the industry,” the PMGMAN chairman explained.

To improve the sector, the Akpa recommended that “an Import Adjustment Tax of 20 per cent on imported Finished Pharmaceutical Products of HS Codes 3003 & 3004 should be imposed immediately as applied to other sectors where Nigeria has capacity as allowed by the CET; input into pharmaceutical manufacturing should be allowed to be imported at zero per cent by bonafide Pharmaceutical Manufacturers” as well as support from Government, Pharmaceutical Innovators, International Suppliers and Partners.

Akpa also urged the Federal Government to give the drug manufacturers some incentives such as tax holidays to support the extra investment for quality upgrades and new factories.

He also appealed to the government, pharmaceutical innovators, international suppliers and partners to sustain the gains made so far by the pharmaceutical industry.

NAFDAC is currently leading other countries in the West African region towards the harmonization of regulatory activities in a 3-year convergence period.

In his speech, Orhii corroborated that NAFDAC has keyed into the United Nations Commission Life Saving Commodities for Women and Children (UNCoLSC) program which seeks to improve access to the thirteen life saving commodities and has worked with several partners such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to build systems and pathways to facilitate access to these products.

“In order to increase efficiency, application pathways have been streamlined. A documentation-based pathway for the evaluation of Medical Devices registered by Stringent Regulatory Authorities has been introduced as well as a documentation-based renewal process for applications pending ratification after satisfactory laboratory report,” the DG said.

“Timelines for registration have been reduced and processes put in place to track applications. We have deployed the NAFDAC Products Administration and Monitoring System (NAPAMS), which allows for an electronic submission (e-Registration) and a robust database,” he added.

The expo was a joint venture of the PMG-MAN, and GPE Expo Pvt Limited, and this year’s event attracted over 130 exhibitors and at least 2,500 participants.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 10, 2015.

Nestlé engages 15,000 Nigerian women in Maggi home garden initiative

•Promotes vegetable consumption

Following growing concerns to encourage consumption of vegetables as part of a healthy diet, Nestlé, Nigeria, through the Maggi brand, has engaged over 15,000 Nigerian women through its home garden initiative this year.

A statement from the Nestlé Central & West Africa Region, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Direction, signed by Isabella Akinseye, said that the scheme is an integral part of the yearly, ‘Maggi Women’s Forum,’ which is held in different parts of Nigeria in partnership with various women’s groups, including the governors’ wives and association presidents.

At each forum, participants are taught about the importance of nutrition, health and wellness, shown how to raise a home garden and are given a vegetable garden starter pack containing iron-rich fluted pumpkin vegetable (an indigenous vegetable grown in southern Nigeria), and a leaflet. Over the past five years, women in 18 Nigerian states have received vegetable seeds.

Commenting on the Maggi home garden initiative, Nordine Meguini, Category Business Manager Culinary, Nestlé Nigeria, said: “Maggi helps families to prepare balanced menus, based on nutritious ingredients.
The home garden initiative is a simple and sustainable way to promote home cooking with vegetables. The seeds offered are easily grown and do not require specific skills.”

Speaking on the response to the home garden initiative, Imabong Martins, Regional Consumer Services Manager said: “It has been very positive and encouraging. Women have called in to report on the progress of their home gardens. Some women have even taken this a step further and are now selling the vegetables they grow on a commercial basis.”

Since the beginning of the year, women have been encouraged to cultivate and send pictures of full grown-harvest ready plants. The first five women to send their pictures from each association will be visited and presented with a Maggi gift. This initiative is part of Nestlé’s global commitments to encourage consumption of vegetables as evidence suggests that many people do not reach the recommended level of consumption. The Maggi Women Forum is expected to reach an additional 15,000 Nigerian women by the end of this year.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12, 2015.

Postgraduate Medical College backs Buhari on anti-corruption war

National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Thursday, declared its support for President Muhammadu Buhari on his ongoing anti-corruption crusade.

Speaking at a press conference to herald the college’s 33rd convocation, President of the college, Prof. Rasheed Arogundade commended Buhari for the giant strides he has made in less than four months on assumption of office.

Arogundade who disclosed that no fewer than 341 convokees will be awarding Fellowship certificates next week, pointed out that Buhari was already fulfilling his electioneering campaign promises.

According to him, corruption has negative effect in every aspect of the economy. He said through the ongoing effort, huge money would be saved, which is needed to revatilise every sector of the country’s economy, particularly the health sector.

L-R: Deputy Registrar, (Academics), National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria,
 Dr. Salami Sule; College Registrar, Professor Ayoola Atoyebi; College President,
 Professor Rasheed Ajani Arogundade and College Treasurer, Professor Opubo da
Lilly-Tariah, during the Pre-Convocation Press Conference of the College in Ijanikin,
“The President promised us change and we have started seeing the wind of that change. The anti-corruption stance of the Federal Government is indeed commendable and we have no doubt in our minds that with this development, a lot of money would be saved for the nation to meet the needs in education, health sectors and others.

“I wish to assure President Buhari that we are with him in his crusade and we wish him a successful tenure,” he said. He explained that if all the money that had been carted away in the past by public officers and converted into their personal pockets were available, they would have taken care of both the health and education problems.

Continuing, the College President appealed to President Buhari not to exempt the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) from the dissolved governing boards of all Federal parastatals and agencies as it will have disastrous consequences on the medical practice in the country.

The President explained that the council’s chairman unlike other bodies is not a political appointee and if dissolved would create room for cases of malpractices to go on unabated.

“There is no reason why the body should be dissolved because of its nature. The Council’s functions are strictly professional and regulatory in nature including medical education, accreditation of professional institutions, maintenance of standards, enforcement of discipline and also monitoring of health institutions that are training doctors all over the country among others.”

On the forthcoming convocation, the college president who said they have graduated 5,046 since inception announced that the college will be awarding honorary fellowship to the Governor of Ondo state for his achievements in the health sector while Prof. Emmanuel Otolorin, an erudite scholar and professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology will deliver the convocation lecture.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12, 2015.

Friesland celebrates 1000 days of workplace safety

FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc, makers of Peak, ThreeCrowns and Frisco, last Wednesday, celebrated it success in ensuring workplace safety   marked 1000 days with no staff forced to be absent from work due to injuries sustained on duty.

In her address to workers during what the company tagged as its ‘SHE Week’ – Safety in Your Hands Hearts, and Mind, the Corporate Affairs Director, Ore Famurewa, said that the organization was now ISO14001 and OHSAS 18001 certified for maintaining the best regulatory standards for environment-friendly energy use and waste management as well as promoting the best occupational health and safety standards without legal breaches.

According to Famurewa, it is part of foremost dairy manufacturer’s policies to promote best occupational health and safety standards among management and staff.

Workers celebrating the Friesland 1000 days of workplace safety
LTA refers to an employee’s time off work as forced by an injury sustained at work during daily operations.
Speaking on the achievement of the 1000 days without Lost Time Accident the Operations Director, of the dairy manufacturer, Doyin Ashiru said: ‘The idea was born after the July 2011 Lagos Flood incident that affected our company as well as other various incidents recorded in the company. We now thought we owe it to all our employees and their families to provide safe working environment.

We then started with the dos and don’ts and gradually, we got everybody to imbibe learning to work in a safe way and then from there we got ourselves into seven rules of working safely, changing momentum and introducing new concepts to ensure there is not only leadership, ownership but also, having everyone in the safety culture. And that is exactly what we have done to achieve the zero lost time accident free-days.”

Ashiru however, said the company is not relaxing on its oars after achieving an accident-free work environment in 1000days, “We are now changing the goal post from Lost Time Accident to Zero-Injuries. We want to start tracking injury days with the objective to come up with another celebration of 1000 Injury-Free Days.

According to him: “We believe if we were able to prevent injuries, we won’t have to talk about ‘Lost Time Accidents;’ so the idea is about coming in with no single spilling of blood and no single incidence happening. It is a culture we want to build and in which everybody owe it to themselves, so we all work in a pro-active way; hence we have changed safety from rule-based to culture-base initiative by saying, safety in your hands, heart and mind.”

In his remarks, the Managing Director of the company, Rahul Colaco, said: “The achievements truly demonstrate our team members’ individual and collective commitment and dedication to high personal safety standards.”

Colaco noted: “We are proud of the high standards we have set for ourselves and the rest of the business within Nigeria. We are very proud of our employees, especially the operations team. It is a great outcome especially when you consider that during the last 1000 days, we have completed several massive construction projects.

“Therefore this is a good opportunity to celebrate our value on safety which recognises that safety is not just a priority but it is in the hearts of the people. The best part is that our families back home are the biggest beneficiaries of this safety culture”, said the Managing Director said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 17, 2015.

AGPMPN urge practitioners to obtain Diploma in Family Medicine

The Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN),has enjoined its members across the country to embrace Family Medicine(FM) by obtaining a Diploma in FM, noting that the certificate will soon become a prerequisite for private practice in Nigeria.

The President of the association, Dr. Omo-Ehijiele Frank Odafen, who made the call during the graduation ceremony of Diplomates in the Faculty of Family Medicine Diploma at the Post Graduate Medical College, Ijaniki, Lagos, weekend, said that the step is in line with the NUC’s announcement a week ago, which directed all universities with medical schools to ensure they start the training in Family Medicine to ensure the building of the critical mass of FM practitioners.

L-R: Dr. Temitope Oyelade, first Vice President, Association of General and Private
Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN); Dr. Omo-Ehijiele Frank Odafen,
President, AGPMPN and Dr. Kay A Adesola,Secretary General, AGPMPN,
during the graduation ceremony of Diplomates in the Faculty of Family Medicine
Diploma at the Post Graduate Medical College, Ijaniki, Lagos, recently.
He reasoned that the reason is that a family medicine physician is the most ideal specialist in medicine and essential to man and the health field due to the specialty’s expanded knowledge of health issues.

Odafen further explained that training in Family Medicine is the only way to achieve a very robust health as it prepares medical doctors to deliver qualitative, in every nuke and cranny of this country.

Describing FM as the gateway of healthcare delivery, the AGPMPN boss emphasized that this role can only be ensured when medical doctors embrace new skill that is comparable with global standard in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery system.

“Only a Family Physician can solve about 80 per cent of the issues of patients, which means someone who understands about 80 per cent of health issues and can directly solve them should be given the job because that specialty is most qualified for it,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President said the Postgraduate Medical College was graduating over 360 family physicians because the country was in dare need of their expertise, adding that AGPMPN wants its members to continuously acquire new knowledge, as well as drop old techniques, while embracing new ones of healthcare delivery.

“So, as an association, we want Nigerians to enjoy very robust health and the only way to achieve this, is by encouraging medical doctors, in every nuke and cranny of this country to deliver qualitative healthcare, and this can only be ensured when they embrace new skill that is comparable with global standard in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery system. Training in Family Medicine is one way to achieve this,” he said.

The President stressed: “Family Medicine is the gateway of healthcare delivery; hence this graduation is laudable to us. That is why, to show good example, I as the President, enrolled in the programme, same for the Secretary General, and other members of the executives to show that qualitative and affordable healthcare delivery is our motto.

“Family medicine physicians in Nigeria are about 800. We had about 400 plus before, and today, the school of Post Graduate Medicine graduated about 360. So we intend to build on this, such that every year from now on, there will be graduants. Our goal is to see that every family in the country will have a family physician assigned to them,” he added.

On what the impact of family medicine training would have on Nigeria’s healthcare system, he noted that with family physicians, every patient, irrespective of gender, disease condition, age, social, economic and political inclination can be sure of being attended to, unless the health issue requires a particular skill which was outside that of the family physician.

“In family medicine, out-patient treatment is holistic; we apply bio-social medical approach to our treatment. The illness of every patient has an impact on somebody, family, neigbhours, workplace or the society, and by extension, every illness has one form of economic impact on the economy of a nation. So, we can therefore not undermine the importance of the specialty in building a very healthy and robust state,” he stated.

While encouraging medical doctors to specialise in family medicine, Odafen noted that any doctor who wants to save lives in large scale must think about family medicine as over 80 per cent of Nigerians patronise them first, before thinking of any other specialty.

“It is important that Nigerian doctors embrace family medicine. Even among our graduants today, some are already specialised in other areas of medicine, yet, they still enrolled in this specialty because they have seen its importance in delivering proper healthcare to Nigerians.

“Like in Britain and other advanced countries, for you to practise as a private practitioner, you must first have specialty in family medicine, because people who visit hospitals come with various problems. So, a family physician will know what appropriate care the person should get and then deploy the skill to the management of the health issue, and if it exceeds his or her skill, then the patient is referred to the appropriate specialty,” he said.

He also added that in terms of primary healthcare delivery, the country has improved. “Before now, maternal mortality rate in the country was abysmally poor, same for other primary health issues, but because of the emphasis we have been laying on primary healthcare, things are getting better. Look at polio for instance, we have virtually eradicated it. Within the next 24 months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is going to certify us polio free. Same success has been recorded in terms of measles.

“Recently, Ban ki Moon was in Nigeria, and he specifically applauded our efforts in polio elimination. If you go to hospitals, immunizations are going on. That is primary healthcare, and the people that hold the ace in this regard are family health physicians,” he stated.

Similarly, Dr. Kay A Adesola, Secretary General, AGPMPN, observed that the association which was in founded 1921, collaborates with the National Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) and West African College of Physicians(WACP) in the adoption of the new global trend of upgrading General Practice to Family Medicine, a specialty that provides continuous, comprehensive and coordinated care to individuals, families and populations undifferentiated by age, gender, disease or organizations.

Adesola collaborating earlier views stressed: “Family physicians are therefore, referred to as the gatekeepers in the field of medical practice since they constitute the sorting unit, the most vital providership of primary care. They are the frontline doctors seeing patients of all kinds, taking care of 80 per cent and sorting out the remaining 20 per cent through best guidance and referral.

The AGPMPN scribe further said: “Family physician, regardless of the training background, constitutes the critical mass needed for turning around the practice of medicine. As at the time of this convocation, only about 400 fellows and 367 Diplomates have been produced to serve the population of over 180million. No wonder, NUC announced about a week ago, the marching order requesting all universities with medical schools to ensure they start the training in Family Medicine. Again, another building of the critical mass.”

The specialty of Family Medicine has gradually gained more acceptance since it got rooted in the Health Delivery Program in Nigeria since 1980.AGPMPN remains the progenitor of the Faculty of Family Medicine and will continue to ensure its success. AGPMPN is also encouraging her members from all over the country to embrace family medicine as its very imperative in the near future that Diploma in FM will become a prerequisite for private practice in Nigeria’’

On behalf of AGPMPN, the executives called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Medical Doctor, especially a Family Medicine Physician, as the Health Minister when he eventually unveils his executive team later this month.

According to him, over 80 per cent of patients in the country patronise private hospitals because of timeliness to treatment – a major reason why the specialty was very key to the success the Ministry of Health under President Buhari would achieve.

Though he noted that medical doctors in any of the specialties in medicine were qualified to hold the position and that AGPMPN would work with any doctor in any specialty the President chooses to appoint, he stressed that he was recommending Family Medicine physicians because they have multifaceted skills in the area of medicine and general healthcare.

“Having said that, in the spirit of Private-Public Partnership which is the only robust way to deliver quality healthcare, we have already designed a document which will be given to the incoming Minister, so he or she can hit the ground running,”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 17, 2015.

Mirabel center, others decry high incidence of rape

…Declare zero tolerance on all forms of sexual assault

Worried by the increasing cases of rape in the society, Mirabel Sexual Assault Referral Centre and other agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, Lagos State, have declared zero tolerance on every sexual assault. They also reiterated the need for victims of rape to speak out, rather than dying silently.

During a one-day community outreach, a special interactive programme, organised by the centre on pelnultimate Friday, at Ikeja, Lagos, Mirabel’s Managing partner, Mrs. Itoro Eze-Anaba, told journalists that the community needed to be involved in the campaign to prevent the crime from overwhelming the society.
While condemning the high level of distortion and interference by influential members of the community, who often prevent perpetrators of the crime from being persecuted, she said involving the community in the fight became a necessary tool to curb the menace.

She said it was the responsibility of everyone to speak against sexual violence, which has fast eaten deep into the fabric of the country’s existence. She described the call as a clarion one, tasking participants to take the message back to their various community so that the awareness can be spread wider.

The passionate crusader however, called on the authorities to paste inscriptions against rape and other sexual harassment in strategic places throughout the country, saying that it was necessary, especially to serve as both warning and reminder of the gravity of the crime.

Eze-Anaba urged every stakeholders to give the necessary support to survivors of rape there, arguing that the victims should never be blamed for the offence. There is no excuse or justification for rape, she reminded. Giving the statistics after two years of existence, she said the centre has seen 865 victims so far, including 20 males.

According to her, over 80 per cent of the victims are minors, below the age of 18.

Her words: “Every woman or child that has been raped carry the incident and trauma all through her lifetime. And there are also health implications on the victim. We will ensure that our community is free from rape and this can be achieved when we all stand to say no the crime.”

Also at the event, Director of Public Prosecutions, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Elizabeth Idowu Alakija commended Mirabel centre, pointing out that the event was apt, paving the way on how justice can be better served to victims of sexual assault and rape.

She recalled that before the campaign against sexual offences was intensified by NGOs and their subsequent partnership with the state government, the offences were settled in-house within the communities and many of the victims were not encouraged to report but to suffer in silence.

She tasked parents to encourage their children to speak up if they are molested, assuring that her own duty was to ensure that every offender is prosecuted and punished if necessary. She said her office receives at least, 10 cases from sexual violence in a day.

Alakija also called on primary and secondary schools to be more proactive in ensuring that the students are safe in their care.

“You will agree with me that there is dire need for increased collaboration among the various stakeholders, to ensure full implementation and enforcement of the law on sexual violence and offences. A law that is not enforced is nothing but a lion in gilded cage, which can only roar but cannot attack. We must not relent in our effort of creating awareness in the communities and encourage victims to remain bold even after reporting to the police until judgment is delivered.

“As stakeholders in this project, we cannot afford to be spectators in our own country. The time has now come for us to prevent the perpetrators from manipulating the system and getting away with this menace. We must work together to ensure they are prosecuted and tried within reasonable time,” she stated.

An ambassador of the centre, Koffi Idowu-Nuel lamented that there were many factors working against the fight. According to him, it is unfortunate that victims often end up being blamed for the violation.

However, he described some of the factors that predisposes children to rape as triggers. He decried the uncontrolled high level of the use of alcohol among the youth, uncensored internet messages, magazines content, technology, indecent dressing, vulgar languages used by most musicians.

He urged parents to closely monitor their children in everything they do, including their conversations on the internet. He called for capital punishment for perpetrators, which he said would serve as deterrent to others, challenging Nigerian authorities to emulate that of England and other developed countries where women’s rights are jealously guarded.

The sponsor of the project, Partnership for Justice, Justice for All and others commended Mirabel centre, saying they were proud to have partnered with it because they were doing a remarkable job. They added that there were so many other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country, but immediately they get money from their sponsor, it becomes difficult or impossible to monitor their activities.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 17, 2015.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Roche pioneers ‘ Health Academy for journalists’

It was a harvest of encomiums for Roche, a popular science-driven healthcare company, as it unveiled 15 health journalists which they are to sponsor in the Health Journalist Academy. The journalists who were the first beneficiaries of the academy were according to them drawn from print, broadcast and new media whose work Roche believes will heighten awareness of health-related issues and promote healthy living among Nigerians.

The Health Journalist Academy, the first of its kind in Nigeria is an initiative being organised in partnership with the School of Media and Communications of the Pan-Atlantic University. According to the Country Manager of Roche in Nigeria, Mr. Herman Addae, the main aim of the academy is to enrich health reportage and coverage in Nigeria by sharpening the skills and technique of health journalists and exposing them to latest trends and techniques for specialized reporting on diseases and healthcare. The training will also provide them deeper insights on the general health status of the nation.

The idea of sponsoring the journalists in the academy according to the country manager is also driven by the Roche philosophy of empowering people to proactively manage their health and to achieve improved health care.

L-R: Country Manager, Nigeria, Roche, Herman Addae; Deputy Head of Mission,
Swiss Embassy, Daniel Cavegn and Representative of the Permanent Secretary,
Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Ngozi Azodo, at the Launch of Health Journalists
Academy sponsored by Roche, in Lagos on recently. Photo: Bode Agbede
While revealing more on why Roche took the bold initiative in improving the quality of health reporters, Mr. Addae said that their decision was informed the setback the healthcare system in Nigeria has suffered in terms of inadequate healthcare professionals and lack of infrastructure.

Other reasons he listed are, low level of awareness about some diseases and management, and of course finance, and singled out the low awareness as the centre and the biggest of all the challenges.
“The biggest challenge of awareness within the general public about health and about diseases condition is the biggest, this central challenge points to the fact that if the knowledge level and information about their health should be improved, they would have a way of proactively preventing diseases and also managing them effectively when afflicted. That would help people in keeping healthy,” he stated.

He continued: “At Roche, we are very passionate about contributing to Nigeria’s health sector beyond our commercial activities. We are convinced that our duty as responsible corporate citizens goes beyond manufacturing and selling of medicines and medical devices, we therefore decided to explore new ways to improve health delivery in Nigeria. And one of the ways we are exploring is the Health Journalist Academy.”

Explaining the procedure of selecting the 15 journalists, he said: “In August this year, the health journalist academy was opened to Nigerian journalists across traditional and new media platform. Entries were submitted on the future of journalism in Nigeria. It was collated and vetted by an independent panel of judges and over 30 candidates were shortlisted and were invited for one on one interview out of which 15 emerged as the first set of beneficiaries of this great initiative,” Mr. Addae recounted.

“We are here today to emphasize that at Roche, we are committed to supporting health care in Nigeria. We appreciate the efforts of the students, judges, the School for Media and Communications, the Federal Ministry of Health and partners like the Swiss Mission who have taken up the responsibility to collaborate with us to improve the health standard of our people in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr. Addae also said there is room for other collaborators to join the moving train. “We are openly inviting other collaborators to join us in this worthy effort. We truly believe that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation and so no effort must be spared on this very noble endeavor” he said.

The Dean of the School of Media and Communication, Dr. Ikechukwu Obiaya, expressed delight to be part of the initiative by Roche, thereby making the academy a very big promise for journalists in Nigeria.
He siad “we are happy because journalists are change agents and when you want to bring about change in a society, when you anchor such change on journalists you are guaranteed to achieve the success.

“Secondly, we recognize that health is a very critical sector that needs urgent attention because over the years as we have heard, it appeared that not much attention have been given to the health sector and so we are glad that right now the company has taken initiative to make sure we have the right education about health sector because when you educate journalists, you are actually educating the entire masses,” Ikehukwu said.

While assuring the students of unique training, he said: “We will bring on board our unique learning frame works, teaching expertise, nurtured by ethics. We will bring on board our industry contacts, our brand image and highly qualified faculty backed by experience. Journalism profession has suffered some of form of neglect thereby leading to huge decline in professionalism and in standards.”

The initiative attracted encomiums from different quarters including from the Federal Ministry of Health. Dr Ngozi Azodoh, Director of Health Planning and statistics who spoke on behalf of Mr. Linus Awute, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, commended Roche for the initiative, saying, it is a clear manifestation of the commitment the company has in investing and empowering everyone in the health sector.

Recognizing the importance of what Roche has done, Dr. Azodoh said, the idea of the health journalist academy is built on empowerment. “Health is about empowering people to take responsibility for their health, it is about empowering the individuals to hold their government accountable, it is about empowering institutions to provide services. It is only God that guarantees, health but our country should guarantee us health services and so we want to thank Roche for this initiative,” she said.

While highlighting the duties of health journalists, Dr. Azodoh said a health journalist is someone who is empowered to inform, educate, and advocate for better health system.
“Talking about information, our recent experience in the public health sector has shown that the public health information was key to the containment of Ebola. The people of Nigeria, for the first time trusted their government. So as people were spreading rumours and people waited for what the minister will say, the minister came on air to address journalists at 8 a.m. every morning. So openness and accountability is key in building a resilient public health system,” she stated.

“A public health journalist is an advocate. Health is different from other sectors. I sat on the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO) on behalf of Nigeria for three-and-half years and I saw what information and empowerment can do. So for this class of 2015, we are requesting that you advocate for support and global solidarity for the health sector,” she advised.

In the same vein, Deputy Head of Mission, Swiss Embassy, Dr. Daniel Cavegn, who officially launched the first-ever Health Journalist Academy in Nigeria applauded Roche for the giant stride.

“I am delighted to be here for the lunch of the Health Journalist Academy which is the first of its kind to the best of my knowledge in Nigeria. Swiss land is particularly glad to be associated with this programme also because of the importance of health for all the people and for Nigerians as a nation. Health is a very complex issue, ranging from research, proper education of health personnel, treatment facility, and medication facility.
“Even there is a serious lack of basic knowledge about various illnesses’ treatment, which means there’s need for general public awareness and education and this is why such an academy as the one Roche launched today is so important,” Dr Cavegn noted.

Applauding the initiative, Prof Durosnmi-Etti, Chairman, Cancer Education Advocacy of Nigeria (CEAFRON) said that he believes the academy will bring the realization of their mission and vision at CEAFRON.

“Our major goal is to engage in the fight against cancer through education and advocacy at the level of all stakeholders. The largest group among stakeholders will be the general public whose level of education and awareness on the disease can help to reduce the burden. To reach out effectively and educate the general public, there is no other group that can do this more effectively than the gentle men of the press” Prof Etti said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 10, 2015.

Bugging questions of Nigeria Coca Cola consumers answered

Recently, the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) held its annual workshop under the sponsorship of Coca- Cola Nigeria Limited. The Scientific and Regulatory Director, Central, East &West Africa, Fred Chiazor, addressed burning questions  consumers frequently ask about the brand during in one of the interactive session with journalists in Lagos.  CHIOMA UMEHA  (HEALTH EDITOR) was there:

Five Alive juice is fortified with Vitamins. So, why is Coke not fortified?
I do not see any fortification done in Five- Alive. The vitamin you see in Five- Alive is Vitamin C which is from citrus fruit and citrus is the source of the Vitamin C. It is not that Vitamin C is added to it. So, Vitamin C there is not artificial but natural. Fortification means you have to deliberately add some nutrients to what you are producing, but it is not the case. For Coke, it is not fortified too, though, sugar is a fortified nutrient. But we should not get confused that Coke is intentionally fortified. It is sugar we see and buy at the market that is fortified.

Invariably, Coke provides you with varieties. It does not limit your choices. It is up to you to make an informed choice based on the provided varieties. That is why we always preach varieties. So, each of these varieties –products have various functions. A glass of Five- Alive is different from Coke and vice versa. Coke is a refreshing drink. When you are thirsty and take a bottle of Coke, it refreshes you. You see that it is different from a glass of orange. Each (Coke or Five- Alive) has its function. Take for instance, Coke Zero has low calories for those who are scared of sugar. Coke and Five- Alive are different products. We cannot fortify Coke just because we want it like juice. It all depends on what individual likes.

From Left: Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager Coca- Cola Nigeria Limited East and West Africa, Mr. Fred Chiazor; Consultant and Senior Lecturer, Department of Community Health, College of Medicine, LUTH, Dr. Kemi Odukoya; flanked by Senior Research Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research NIMR, Yaba, Dr. Bartholomew Brai; Country Representative International Confederation of Dietetic Association, Dr. Chika Ndiokwelu; Health Editor, The Sun, Azoma Chikwe and Director, Public Affairs & Communication, Coca- Cola Nigeria Limited, Clem Ugorji during the 2015 Health Writers Workshop which held at De Renaissance Hotel, Ikeja, recently.
With the level of automation one sees at Coca Cola plants, why do we sometimes hear reports of dirt in Coca Cola’s drinks or you find Sweppe bottled in Sprite bottle?
No system is fool-proof no matter how automated it is. About 60,000 bottles are produced per minute. If you have 60,000 and you have only one bottle having that problem, then it is okay! But there is another side which we don’t like to make so much noise about: There are some people that are funny especially those looking for litigation purposes. We have adulterators outside there.

These are people who manually corked these bottles for all kinds of reasons. But, because we are Coca Cola, we won’t say if you have a complaint, we will throw it away and say, it is not ours. We will follow it through to unravel the date code, batch number to make sure it is actually from our plant. And if need be, we compensate as required. What we are saying is, there is a possibility of having problem from the plant but it is one in a million.

How is it that something that has sugary taste like Coke Zero does not contain sugar?
It is very possible. I said earlier that there is no food that is artificial but you can have artificial sweetener. Sweetener is not a food, it is an ingredient. We have artificial and non-artificial sweeteners. Sweeteners we are talking about include aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose, saccharin and so on. In Coke Zero, we have aspartame and Acesulfame-K. Because these are non-nutritive, they do not have any calorific value. For instance, aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and that is why it is possible to have that sugary taste. But you cannot use one sweetener to get the sugary taste we are talking about.

That is why we combine it with acesulfame-K which is another non-nutritive sweetener. A combination of the two gives you a taste close to sugar. If you use only one of them at that same level, you will get an after-bitter taste. When something is too sweet, it turns to bitterness. The two sweeteners do not have calories like sugar.

Is Coke in PET bottle the same as in glass bottle and can? Consumers’ perception is that they are not the same. They said the one in PET is better than the one in bottle.
Coke is Coke all over the world. The Coke you drink here is the same as one made in US or London or all over the world. The difference you will find mostly is in the source of the sugar we use. Whether you like it or not, sugar has its taste. The source of our sugar here is cane sugar. Over there in US, it is beet sugar. 

So, what we are saying is that the formulation of Coke does not vary with packaging. It is the same formulation we use. We cannot afford to have a different formulation. Now, because they are different packages, they go through different storage conditions. Remember, the one in bottles does not have the same shelf life as one in PET. Why? Pet is lighter so the shelf-life is about four months while the bottle is about one year.

Now, because PET is fresher and has shorter shelf-life, you think it is better than bottle because the bottle is older. Remember, it depends on when the bottled one is produced and when you taste the product. Also, mind you, ‘Best Before’, does not mean that it is no longer safe for consumption. What it means is that you will get the best taste before the stated date, but it is still wholesome.

What is the position of Coca Cola on the rumour circulating on social media that if you heat up Coke to a certain level, it turns to coal tar. Another one is that Coke is so acidic that it can shine toilet?
Whether you like it or not, Coke contains acid. So does juice, orange and so on. You can call it natural or not, it is still acidic. The point we are making here is that if you use certain level of orange to go and clean that toilet, it will clean that toilet because it contains acid. I won’t say Coke won’t shine the toilet, it will just as orange or lemon would. What is causing that shining is the acid in it.

No matter what people tell you about the acid in Coke, know that the acid in Coke is lower than the acid in the stomach. The one in Coke is about 2.5 PH, but the acid content in your stomach (gastric acid) is about 1.5 PH. That is to say that the acid in the stomach is stronger than acid in Coke. But just as the stomach has acid, it also has neutralizers which neutralize the acid in the stomach before everything gets to the small intestine.

Now on the question of when you heat Coke, it turns to coal tar: It is the presence of the colourants and acid in Coke that they are reacting to. Remember as I said earlier, the stomach has neutralizers. That is why people have been drinking Coke for over 100 years and no one has died from drinking Coke. By time our generation goes, Coke will continue.

There was a case of a colleague who each time after taking Coke, she usually visits the toilet more frequently (stooling). What could have been the cause?
It is a matter of perception. There is really nothing special in Coke that will warrant going to toilet as often as stated. Coke has been there for over 130 years and no negative effect of that nature has been recorded. 

How many of us take Coke and go to toilet? Everybody’s system is different that is why he would experience that. I think it is peculiar to that person. Maybe that person has something about Coke in his head. You know when we have psychological feeling about something; it is bounds to affect us.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 10, 2015.

Blog Archive