Saturday, 5 December 2015

HIV : Nigeria records 210,000 deaths over poor ARV access – PSN

This year’s World AIDS Day celebration in the country was with a mixed feeling as statistics showed that there are still 2.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria that lack access to treatment, despite campaigns and other efforts by various agencies, both international and local ones to reduce infection and eliminate the disease.

According to experts 3.4 million people were diagnosed of HIV last year, out of which 2.9 million are not receiving the treatment needed to suppress the disease. These carriers, who are currently living in hiding, are not only at risk of death from HIV related illnesses, they are also infecting new people, causing a surge of the disease.

Although HIV prevalence in the country remains low at 3.2 per cent, approximately 210,000 Nigerians died from AIDS – related illnesses in 2013 even as 220,000 new HIV infections were recorded.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) which made the revelation in a statement to mark this year’s World AIDS Day attributed the high deaths from AIDS to problem of accessing the antiretroviral treatment in the country.

“Approximately 210,000 people died from AIDS – related illnesses, 220,000 new HIV infections in Nigeria in 2013 and since 2005 there has been no reduction in the number of annual deaths which shows fundamental problem of accessing the Antiretroviral treatment in the country,” said the society in the statement signed by its new President, Pharm. Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai .

The society, is therefore, seeking greater role towards meeting the new target of ‘Getting to Zero’ in the campaign to eliminate HIV in the country. Beyond their conventional role in adherence and treatment, pharmacists seek to play role in HIV prevention and health promotion as part of collaborative efforts to rid Nigeria and the world of the pandemic.

“…With the aim of achieving “Zero new HIV Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination, Zero AIDS-related deaths. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) will focus on the Prevention, Adherence and Treatments and indeed health promotion,” adding, “As pharmacists and society we will continue to participate in promoting the HIV/AIDS initiatives of the Federal Government, UNAIDS and World Health Organisation, facilitate collaboration between pharmacists, professional associations, health care professionals and development partners involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS as pharmacists can play great roles not only in adherence and treatment but in all aspects of public health.”

According to the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Gap Report 2014, nine per cent of all people living with HIV live in Nigeria. However, HIV prevalence among Nigerian adults is relatively small in Nigeria at 3.2 per cent when compared to South Africa with 19.1 per cent and Zambia ,12.5 per cent.

Similarly, experts at the scientific symposium to mark this year’s World AIDS Day, organized by Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), noted that only 500,000 people are currently on treatment, while the rest 2.9 million largely men serve as reservoir for the spread of the disease.

“Men do not go to hospital as much as women so they are the most difficult to reach. Those at higher risks include; women, homosexuals, men who engage with drugs and those who have sex with female sex workers, they said. However, allowing people to pay for these treatments has resulted in default, causing more resistant and death from the disease, Amina Ali, Chairperson, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, (NEPHWAN), Lagos Chapter lamented in an interview.

According to her, the new directive from Federal Government which mandates patients to pay for treatment at the bank is currently causing stigma and exposing more people to contracting Tuberculosis.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 3, 2015. 

World AIDS Day: Nigeria records reduction in infection

While the world yesterday marked Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS) Day, available statistics showed that the prevalence of infections has reduced below four per cent in the country.

This was confirmed by Dr. Pascal Ezeobi, Senior Researcher Fellow, Nigeria InAstitute of Medical Research (NIMR) during an outreach and awareness programme, the institute in collaboration with Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA) organised at Alimosho Local Government Area, Lagos to mark the day.

According to Ezeobi, joint activities of different medical professionals has helped to reduce the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the country, “however we know that there are still new cases that come up all over the country but then, what is important is that we cannot stop until the disease is eradicated or reduced to the barest minimum”.

While acknowledging the efforts of government in the fight against HIV/AIDS, he called on government to do more, saying that other agencies should also support medical research in order to find a better way of eradicating the scourge.
National Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, Committee on Ports Health, Dr. Adeyeye Arigbabuwo, decried the continued issue of stigmatisation in the fight against the disease in the country.

He said: “There is still stigmatisation, people still die of complication from HIV/AIDS but we are trying to make sure we get it to zero per cent may be in the next five to 10 years. We need reorientation, education, change of habit especially our social habit. People should no longer feel afraid or shy wanting to know their HIV status because it is something that is treatable.

We are here doing screening for our people, for them to know their status because prevention is better than cure. Some people have been living with this for 15 years, yes you may say it is not curable but it is treatable. After all, we have conditions like hypertension, diabetes which are not curable but are treatable, people play with people suffering them, they live with them, they get treated and the condition is treated. The essence of it is that you know your status and you seek help. We are also doing counselling so that if a person is infected he/she can know how to live long with it without infecting others.

Earlier, Yetunde Soyinde of Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, counselled participants at the event on HIV/AIDS letting them know different ways it could be contracted.

According to her, “that one is positive does not mean that the person can commit suicide, there are people who are living well with it. A positive person can be treated and he/she can still produce children free of the disease, live a long and normal life.

Aside free HIV/AIDS screening and test, participants at the events were also provided free sugar and blood pressure checks.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 3, 2015.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

JOHESU/AHPA fault Buhari on health ministerial appointments

...Demands for appointment of their member as Special Adviser on Health

Health workers under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have faulted the appointment of only medical doctors into key positions in the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) by President Mohammed Buhari.

In a letter by JOHESU titled, “Appraising Appointments in the Federal Ministry of Health addressed to the President, which was obtained by Newswatch Times, the group alleged that the appointments are ‘lopsided’ and would aggravate the already volatile health sector.

They further complained that the appointment of two medical doctors as Ministers of Health was the same arrangement under the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, which the group allegedly attributed to have caused unprecedented dislocation of the component elements of the sector.

JOHESU/AHPA bemoaned that the only difference which was in their favour in what they labeled as ‘Old Jonathan Order’ was that administrators or non-care providers were always appointed as Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health.

However, the group in a letter which was co-signed by the Chairman, JOHESU, Comrade Jay Josiah and Chairman, AHPA, Dr. Godswill C. Okara, further lamented that position of Permanent Secretary has also been ceded to doctors.

The letter stated: “Your Excellency, the appointment of two Medical Doctors as Ministers in Charge of the Federal Ministry of Health equaled the precedence of former President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, which unfortunately catalyzed unprecedented dislocation of the component elements of the Health Sector in that dispensation.

National President/Chairman, JOHESU and Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josaiah (left); President Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Olumide Akintayo; Chairman, Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA), Dr. Godswill C. Okara and Secretary General, Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Omokhuale I. Marcus at the Joint Health Sector Unions media briefing in Lagos, recently. 
Expressing their disappointment JOHESU/AHPA said: “The only ameliorating balm in that discourse (the Old Jonathan Order) was that the Permanent Secretary in Charge of the Federal Ministry of Health was always administrators or non-care providers. Today even that has been taken away because the new Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health is also a traditional strong advocate of the interests of only her medical doctor colleagues from her time as a Permanent Secretary in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.

“To compound the woes of all other health workers apart from Doctors which we represent, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity which ordinarily should arbitrate over our welfare demands which the hegemony of Doctors over-bearing leadership truncates at the Federal Ministry of Health is now being headed by yet another Medical Doctor, Dr. Chris Ngige. The obvious fallout of this dangerous but unprecedented structure against the professional destinies of all health workers apart from Doctors can be summarized in the reflected phraseology-calamitous future expectations.”

“For a health sector where doctors hitherto reduced a supposed Federal Ministry of Health to a Ministry of Doctor to now be officially and legitimized as home to only doctors who constitute less than five per cent of the workforce at the detriment of the majority of over 95 per cent in our humble opinion Your Excellency, appears to epitomise neglects of the feelings of the gross majority of health workers and will aggravate the volatility in the sector instead of abating it,” their letter added.

The group also lamented that the woes of all other health workers apart from doctors is compounded by the fact that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity which ordinarily should arbitrate over its welfare demands is now headed by a Medical Doctor, Dr. Chris Ngige.

While noting that the development portends dangerous consequences against the professional destinies of all health workers apart from doctors, the group predicted what it described as ‘calamitous future expectations’ for members of JOHESU/AHPA.

The obvious fallout of this dangerous but unprecedented structure against the professional destinies of all health workers apart from doctors can be summarized in the reflected phraseology-calamitous future expectations.

They, therefore, demand a balancing the various appointments already made at the Federal Ministry of Health by appointing healthcare providers of diverse background within the rank and file of its members as Special Adviser/Special Assistant on Health to the President, in the interest of enduring peace in the health Sector.

They also demand an immediate approval of the adjustment of the CONHESS scale as was done with CONMESS scale since year January 2014 to pave way for implementation based on approvals in the 2016 budget.

The letter said: “We now respectfully request Your Excellency to look into our prayers which include: An urgent need to balance the various appointments already made at the Federal Ministry of Health in the interest of enduring peace in the Health Sector.

The letter further said there is “dire need to appoint healthcare providers of diverse background within the rank and file of our members as Special Adviser on Health to the President, Senior Special Assistant on Health in addition to lawful appointments of our members who should head some of the key parastatals in the health sector based on existing condition precedents in the relevant statutes.”

It demanded: “An immediate approval of the adjustment of the CONHESS scale as was done with CONMESS scale since year January 2014 to pave way for implementation based on approvals in the 2016 budget. This must be in addition to other welfare demands of JOHESU members.”

President Buhari had recently appointed Prof. Isaac Adewole, as the Hon. Minister of Health, and Dr Osagie Ebanire as Minister of State for Health and Dr Amina Shamaki as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health.

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

Pfizer reaffirms commitment to bridge nutritional gap

As part of the company’s commitment to application of science and global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare has launched two new ranges of multivitamins and minerals.

The official products unveiling took place during the opening ceremony of the 88th Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria’s (PSN) annual conference which ended weekend at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

While addressing journalists, Sue Cartwright, Pfizer’s marketing manager (Southern & West Africa) explained that Centrum range of multivitamins is scientifically formulated to help fill nutritional gaps in diets, enhance multiple health benefits to help unlock energy, strengthen immunity as well as support healthy eyes and brain development.

She further highlighted that the products are tailored to different ages and lifestyle; children, women, men, pregnant women and adults over 50 years. Keeping in mind that dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease but rather help consumers attain the recommended dietary allowance.

“Although we are treating our entry as a launch, Centrum is already available in the country via informal means (suitcase trade, temporary import permits). We have been in the market since 1968 and over these years, a lot of science and technology have gone into it.

“Centrum is the most clinically studied multivitamin brand with over 100,000 patient years of exposure in clinical studies in the world,” she said, adding, both Centrum and Caltrate are approved by NAFDAC.

Pharm Olumide Akintayo, immediate past President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN); Rukayat Odekunle, Head of Procurement, Ministry of Health (Representing the permanent secretary) and Sue Cartwright, Marketing Manager, South Africa, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, during the product launch of centrum and caltrate products in Nigeria, by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare at the PSN National conference Abuja, weekend. During a presentation on the second product, Caltrate, Cartwright said that it is equally a scientifically formulated calcium supplement for adults and the elderly to support calcium and vitamin D deficiencies as well as assists in osteoporosis treatment.
“It is the World’s No.1 selling calcium supplement with vitamin D for calcium absorption, helping to support strong and healthy bones.

On her assessment of the Nigerian pharmaceutical market, the Pfizer marketing manager declared that it seems like a complex one because of the huge presence of drugs.

“But I think it is very exciting. There are a lot of variants coming in. Secondly I must admit that working with Nigerian pharmacists too is quite exciting. However we are positive about the huge opportunities awaiting us,” she noted.

On measures taken to avert counterfeiting of Centrum and Caltrate, Cartwright announced that both Pfizer and WWCVL teams are working closely with NAFDAC on the possibility of introducing the Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) technology.

She was also quick to point out that since the products are imported into the country directly from abroad, there is no reported case of counterfeit yet.

“However we have got people on the ground to assess the problem better. We (Pfizer team and WWCVL management) will be working together with Nigerian healthcare workers – doctors, pharmacists, nurses and we will be going directly to the consumers through newspapers, radio, television and digital media,” she concluded.

In a related development, Zikhona Spelman, a qualified South African dietician also addressed pharmacists on the role of nutritional supplements in the new millennium.

“It is pertinent to note that people are not eating the way they are supposed to. Besides, the nutritional value of food has changed over time. This is where nutritional value comes in. However such supplements are not meant to replace your normal meal,” she stressed.

The dietician further harped on the need for multivitamins, specifically the ones with B Complex, to be taken in the morning.

According to her, they are meant to extract energy from food.

In attendance at the official launch were Pharm. Uloaka Atueyi, brand manager (Nigeria); Deepak Kanwar, WWCVL sales manager; Pharm. Bruno Nwankwo, chairman, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN); Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, former Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc CEO; Pharm. Ade Popoola, chairman, PSN Board of Fellows, Pharm. Lere Baale, director of Business School of Netherlands, among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 19, 2015. 

Guinness Nigeria dismisses allegations on using expired materials

...We’re committed to best practices, quality – MD

The Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer of Guinness Nigeria, Mr. Peter Ndegwe, has refuted claims by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)that the company was revalidating expired products withoutauthorisation and supervision, as well as exposing its raw materials to rodents.

Stating this in its Lagos office, the MD said that in line with best practices, Guinness Nigeria destroys expired raw materials in partnership with the government, adding that samples of the said revalidated raw materials weretaken to manufacturers who analysed the materials to know if their ‘best before use’ can be extended, and in cases where they were deemed okay for extension, they were extended.

“ The issue NAFDAC said they had with us when they came to inspect the warehouse, was that they were not carried along in the revalidation process. But we were surprised when the letter sent to us noted that we have been fined N1billion,” he said.

The MD also explained that Guinness Nigeria was not aware that it was suppose to carry NAFDAC along in the process of revalidation, noting that it had never been stated categorically that NAFDAC would be carried along during revalidation, until the regulatory agency visited the warehouse and brought their attention to it.

Ndegwa further stated that the company consistently improves on the manufacturing process to “ensure that the quality of our products is top notch.” Continuous improvement in quality, Ndegwa stated, will remain a constant pursuit by the company.

He said: “We take our responsibility to deliver quality products seriously. The meticulous and painstaking work, including rigorous quality assurance that precedes the final production of all our products, has a singular objective: to ensure that our consumers drink products that are healthy and comparable with similar products made by a Diageo facility anywhere else in the world.”

The Guinness CEO also said that the company’s conformity to the highest standards of quality have enabled the repeated re-certification of its products and procedures by some of the world’s leading certification organizations as the International Standards Organization (ISO) as well as the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON). The company received the ISO 9002:1994 quality standard in 2001 becoming the first brewery in West Africa to be so honoured.

L-R Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Ndegwa, Corporate Relations Director, Mr. Sesan Sobowale, Supply Chain Director, Mr. Cephas Afebuameh and Marketing and Innovation Director, Mr. Gavin Pike, all of Guinness Nigeria during a media parley which held at the Ikeja brewery of Guinness Nigeria, weekend.

Collaborating, the Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Sesan Sobowole, explained that the recent claim that rodents were in the warehouse only arose from the figment of the imagination of the media house that reported the story last Wednesday.

Sobowale, explained that NAFDAC did not state in their letter that there were rodents in the facility, rather he said the food and drug agency indicated that thecondition around the warehouse could attract rodents.

However, he added that the company late last month fumigated the warehouse and were given a clean bill afterwards, noting that there was no way rodents could live there since it was fumigated few weeks ago.

The Corporate Affairs Director further explained that the warehouse was a temporary one which the beverage company had already concluded plans to relocate to a more convenient site come January 2016.

According to him, the company was surprised when they received a letter from NAFDAC which slammed them with the fine.

This is even as he added that NAFDAC officials similarly expressed shock when Guinness Nigeria visited the agency to complain about the letter containing the fine.

According to him, key officials of the beverage company would be visiting the agency on Monday to meet with the DG NAFDAC who is out of the country at the moment, for clarification.

Cephas Afebuameh, the Supply Chain Director for the company explained that there is an extensive and elaborate process in which basic raw materials are first converted during the brewing stage, with lots of critical control points, before the products are bottled and released to the market.

Afebuameh said: “Each of these painstaking steps is rigorously monitored for conformity with all necessary global standards which we regard as basic, as we always aspire to exceed the much higher standards that have been set internally by the Diageo Group.”

The high quality of products from Guinness Nigeria’s breweries, he said, “Has been attested to repeatedly not only by NAFDAC, but also by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) as well as the internal quality controls of the Diageo Group.”

He maintained that Guinness has over the years been actively developing and implementing new procedures and innovations, based on the imperative of improving efficiency across all areas of the organization.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on November 19, 2015. 

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