By Adedapo Adesanya
The pharmaceutical company, GSK, has been awarded a contract to produce the world’s first malaria vaccine so that millions more children will be protected against the killer disease.
This was announced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The value of the deal is about $170 million and will lead to the production of 18 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of young lives annually.
Malaria remains one of the biggest killers of children under five. In 2020, nearly half a million boys and girls died from the disease in Africa alone, a rate of one death every minute.
The Director of UNICEFOpens, Etleva Kadilli, stated that Opens in new window rollout sends a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work.
“We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market,” she said.
“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes”.
Malaria is caused by parasites and transmitted to humans through infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. While the disease is preventable and curable, it can be fatal if left untreated.
More than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHOOpens in new window), and the vaccine could provide added protection to more than 25 million children each year once the supply ramps up.
The RTS,S malaria vaccine – the result of 35 years of research and development – is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease.
Business Post had reported that the Pilot programme was launched in 2019, coordinated by WHO, in three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – and has reached more than 800,000 children.
Last October, the UN health agency recommended Opens in new windowits widespread use in countries with moderate to high malaria transmission.
That December, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, took the decision to provide funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries, thus opening the pathway for the broader roll-out of the vaccine.
Speaking on this, CEO Mr Seth Barkley reported that Gavi recently opened the “application window” for funding requests.
“Thanks to UNICEF’s procurement work, we now have more certainty on supply and can move a step further towards getting this life-saving vaccine to the people who need it the most. As manufacturing ramps up over time, we hope that increasing volumes will also lead to more sustainable, lower prices,” he said.
Meanwhile, WHO has welcomed progress in securing supply and timely access to the vaccine so that more countries can introduce it as soon as possible.
“Lives are at stake, every day,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, “Given the initial limited supply, it is crucial that children living in areas where the risk of disease and need is highest are prioritized first”.
UNICEF expects that demand for the malaria vaccine will be high among affected countries. As with any new vaccine, supply will be limited at first, the agency said but will increase as manufacturing capacity ramps up over time, which in turn will lead to a decrease in costs per dose.
mPharma Launches Programme to Tackle Hypertension in Nigeria, Others
By Adedapo Adesanya
mPharma has launched the Hypertension Test and Treat programme (HTT) to support the prevention and control of hypertension in Africa.
Heart disease is one of the greatest causes of premature death in Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the prevalence of hypertension is highest in the African region, with about 46 per cent of adults aged 25 years and older being hypertensive compared to 35 per cent in the Americas and other HIC and 40 per cent elsewhere in the world.
The HTT programme will be delivered through the company’s network of mutti pharmacies in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia, with plans to expand the service to other countries.
The programme would aim to identify different classes of people, those at risk for hypertension, those who are about to develop hypertension and those who are already living with hypertension. The objectives would be to prevent, detect, and control the conditions.
Speaking at the launch of the programme in Nigeria, Dr Olagoke Ewedairo, VP of Health Services at mPharma, said the hypertension test and treat program is a service which aims to promote the early detection of hypertension, prompt treatment and prevention of complications such as hypertensive heart disease, kidney failure etc. which are on the rise despite being preventable.
The service includes a private consultation to review your medical history and current medications, determine your cardiovascular risk level and provide tailored lifestyle modification strategies to improve your health and wellbeing. In addition, a range of diagnostic tests would be available; all of these are to ensure you have a healthy heart.
On his part, Dr Hafeez Oluwa, the Global Primary Care Manager at mPharma, said that the company is taking a different approach to dealing with hypertension, going further than just helping people who have already developed the condition to identify people who are at risk of hypertension and collaborating with them to prevent the development of the disease.
“The passive approach has just led to numbers rising exponentially. We need to think more about primary prevention as we deal with hypertension with health promotion. If we start implementing lifestyle changes at an earlier stage, we may prevent more diagnoses of hypertension”, he said, speaking at the launch.
The programme has been rolled out in stages, the first stage was using the ongoing diabetes programme at mPharma, Diabetes Test and Treat, which has helped over 3000 patients achieve optimal glycemic control, become more aware of their risk of developing hypertension and helping those who have been diagnosed be more adherent to their medication.
The second stage was identifying people living with hypertension around our communities and deploying health education and coaching to help them control their blood pressure. Mr Dominic, a beneficiary of the program, said he was happy with the initiative as he got more insights into some of the things he had been doing that were preventing him from getting better. He wanted mPharma to do more to make sure many more people like him have access to this initiative.
The programme, in its final form, will include more people in its target audience, including people identified as being at risk of hypertension. It would be available in Kenya as a subscription service for purchase through mPharma mutti pharmacies and in subsequent months in other countries. It aligns with mPharma’s vision of providing accessible and affordable care to patients in vulnerable communities across Africa by transforming its mutti pharmacies into primary healthcare centres.
The hypertension test and treat service launches at select mutti pharmacies in Nigeria are effective today. Patients can visit any of mPharma mutti pharmacies to check their blood pressure for free and discuss their eligibility program.
mPharma plans to expand the hypertension test and treatment service to all 500 locations of mutti branches over time as the company’s ultimate aim is to put every African in good health and to contribute their quota to making universal healthcare coverage available to all.
Stanbic IBTC Pushes for Innovative Financing Solutions for Healthcare
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The healthcare industry in Nigeria can compete with others in advanced countries if stakeholders work together to create innovative financing solutions.
The Head of Specialised Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, said the market is big enough to attract more investors.
A few days ago, Business Post reported that a global research firm, Agusto & Co, projected that an increased foreign interest would drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term, helping to bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.
For Ms Ike-Okoli, this goal can be achieved as Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market. She said the country only needs an effective collaboration among stakeholders to boost the sector.
Speaking during the panel session at the Medic West Africa Conference, Ms Ike-Okoli argued that effective collaboration between the financial industry and healthcare organisations was key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.
She also mentioned that the sector is yearning for innovative financing solutions to address the nuances of lending to healthcare businesses.
“Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market, and despite this, we have inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which gives rise to weakened health systems.
“It is in response to this that Stanbic IBTC has decided to partner with key players in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance and provide robust yet flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers.
“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for players in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and grow their healthcare businesses.
“One of such solutions is the recently launched unsecured short-term loan with a 12-month tenor, which is aimed at directly supporting providers with funds to improve their offerings and, by extension, grow the healthcare sector in Nigeria,” she stated.
Other panellists featured at the event included Dr Folabi Ogunlesi, Managing Partner Vesta Healthcare; Dr Idorenyin Oladiran, Medical Consultant, Human Resources, MTN Nigeria; Dr Leke Oshunniyi, CEO, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) and Professor Akin Abayomi, Commissioner of Health, Lagos State.
Pharmaceutical Company Introduces Affordable Blood Tonic for Nigerians
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The harsh economy in Nigeria caused by high prices of items amid low purchasing power has made it difficult for Nigerians to afford the basic needs of life, especially drugs to replenish their body system.
As a result, the rate of suicide triggered by depression and others has increased. Also, the number of people falling sick in the country has skyrocketed.
But things may soon change for the better as a pharmaceutical firm, Sterling Biopharma Limited, has introduced a new product called Fejeron Blood Tonic into the Nigerian market to support the country’s about 66.8 per cent economically active population.
Fejeron Blood Tonic contains iron, Vitamin B12 and folic acid, all essential components that help to facilitate adequate blood supply and replenishment to the body with vital vitamins while enabling a strong immune system.
“Fejeron Blood Tonic is the latest proof of our commitment to this mission. Despite its premium quality, Fejeron, at the moment, is one of the most affordable blood tonics you will find in the Nigerian pharma market, and this is deliberate. All Nigerians should be able to take care of themselves,” the chief operating officer of Sterling Biopharma, Mr Adebayo Adepoju, said at the unveiling of the product in Lagos on Thursday, September 15.
He said the drug was formulated due to the nature of stress and fatigue that Nigerians encounter daily, which requires that their physical and mental well-being is well supported to function at its best.
“At Sterling Biopharma, we believe that everyone deserves to be able to buy simple prescription drugs without breaking the bank. This is why from the moment we entered the Nigerian market. With our wide range of products, we have made our intentions clear, and that is to make quality pharmaceutical products affordable for all Nigerians,” he stated.
Since its market introduction, Fejeron has quickly become one of the well-sought-after new brands in the pharmaceutical category. The Product Manager, Olumide Ogunremi, linked the warm embrace of the product to its quality and appeal to the needs of Nigerians.
“The quick acceptance of Fejeron Blood Tonic in Nigeria is not surprising. The enthusiasm to try out the product and the return purchases across the biggest pharmaceutical markets in Nigeria validate the quality of the product and timeliness of its emergence.”
On what makes Fejeron Blood Tonic unique, Mr Ogunremi promised that both the young and old would love the taste of Fejeron, adding that extra effort has also been put into ensuring that the product has fewer chances of causing common side effects like metallic after-taste, staining of the teeth; constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and others.
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