By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the most populated West African nation, has come under the spotlight, allegedly as the birthplace of monkeypox, which was detected in several European countries in April-May.
During these couple of months, at least 11 countries have reported monkeypox cases, namely Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
Canada’s Montreal has reported 17 suspected cases of monkeypox. According to the health ministry, most cases are confirmed in male gays. Doctors cannot see the threat of a mass outbreak.
After studying the monkeypox situation in the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it sees no grounds for serious concerns, with no restrictions on travel to Britain or on trade with the UK being recommended. WHO has also not officially identified the origin of the disease virus.
Speaking at a briefing on May 17, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus only in passing referred to “monkeypox affecting a number of countries.” Having analyzed the cases of this disease in the UK, the WHO confined its recommendations to a standard set of hygienic requirements and did not insist on travel and trade restrictions for the UK.
Similar to the start of coronavirus, Russia’s health officials refused that the infection was in the Russian Federation, and it later become the worst affected country in the former Soviet region. However, Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing said that “the risk of the infection being imported to the Russia Federation has been and remains extremely low.” The health watchdog is, however, taking all necessary measures to prevent this disease from being imported to the territory of Russia.
In late May, Russia allegedly asked WHO to investigate the origin of the virus. Chief of Russian Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Force Igor Kirillov said that at least four US-run Biolabs operate in Nigeria, where the monkeypox pathogen strain originates from and where the US deployed its biological infrastructure. Kirillov added that in this regard, it is necessary to point out a “strange coincidence that requires additional inspection by specialists.”
According to the Defense Ministry’s briefing slides, two US-controlled bio laboratories operate in the city of Abuja, one in the city of Zaria, and another one in Lagos.
“Against the background of numerous cases of US violations of biosafety requirements and facts of negligent storage of pathogenic biomaterials, we call on the leadership of the World Health Organization to investigate the activities of US-funded Nigerian laboratories in Abuja, Zaria, Lagos and inform the world community about its results,” Kirillov said.
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, Federation Council Deputy Speaker, also added his call for urgent investigation. “Of course, the Defense Ministry’s data on the possible origin and sources of the current spread of monkeypox, as in other cases, is very informative and deserves overwhelming attention. We will be discussing aspects associated with threats concerning medicine and health protection at one of the commission’s meetings,” the Russian Senator said.
Nigeria had confirmed 21 cases of monkeypox since the start of the year with one death reported, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Reuters news agency reported on May 30.
Monkeypox, a usually mild viral infection, is endemic in the African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. The NCDC said out of 61 suspected cases of monkeypox reported since January, 21 had been confirmed with one death, that of a 40-year-old man. The cases were reported in nine states and the federal capital Abuja.
“Among the 21 cases reported in 2022 so far, there has been no evidence of any new or unusual transmission of the virus, nor changes in its clinical manifestation documented (including symptoms, profile and virulence),” NCDC said. Six of the cases were detected in May, it said.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild and is endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.
Health reports further indicated it is a rare viral disease mainly transmitted to humans by contact with infected wild animals (rodents or primates). The human-to-human transmission is limited as it requires close contact. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, backache, swelling in the lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. It may be followed by a rash on the face and body.
New Health Reform Bill to Reposition Sector—Osinbajo
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigeria’s Vice President, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, has disclosed that a new health reform bill to reposition the country’s health sector for improved delivery of set objectives would be in the works soon.
Speaking at the closing of the two-day Presidential Health Reform Committee Retreat in Abuja, he noted that this is pending a full committee report review and a complete policy document appraisal.
“The next steps now are to finalize subcommittee reports for the review of the full committee and produce a full committee report to guide the drafting of the policy document. And then draft a health reform Bill,” Mr Osinbajo stated.
The Vice President then thanked the committee members for their hard work and dedication and reaffirmed the Buhari Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the reform objectives are achieved.
The Vice President emphasized that the federal government’s ongoing efforts to reposition Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system must include collaboration among different levels of government and the private sector to ensure the effective implementation of reforms that will cater to the needs of Nigerians in the 21st century.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in September 2021, approved the establishment of a Health Sector Reform Committee and appointed the Vice President as Chair of the team, which was officially inaugurated by the VP in January 2022.
The Health Minister, Dr Osagie Ehanire, also a member of the panel, was in attendance at the retreat and also Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.
Other members of the committee present at the 2-day retreat included the Emir of Shonga, Haliru Yahaya; DG, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh; DG, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr Tunde Irukera; DG, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa; Former Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Professor Akin Abayomi; and Lead Coordinator, Presidential Health Reform Committee, Dr Nicholas Audifferen.
Stakeholders Form Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products
By Dipo Olowookere
Some critical stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria have come together to form a group aimed at frustrating and subsequently chasing makers of fake and substandard drugs out of business.
The group, known as the Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products (CACPP), already has the support of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the major drug manufacturers in the country, distributors, retailers, and others.
At the unveiling of the coalition in Lagos on Monday, the convener of CACPP, Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, who is also the chief executive of CMC Connect, disclosed that the initiative was borne out of the desire to rid the country of counterfeit drugs and save lives of consumers, who take drugs to get better.
“It is borne out of the desire to take a firmer stand against counterfeit pharmaceutical products in Nigeria through engagement and advocacy, with hope to kick off an intense national advocacy campaign against counterfeit pharmaceutical products,” he stated.
He stated that the group has mapped out strategies to achieve these goals, assuring that the coalition was focused and would not be derailed, no matter what.
According to him, CACPP found out that people consume counterfeit pharmaceutical products due to ignorance, poverty, and illiteracy.
While the West Africa Country Manager of Pfizer, Mr Olayinka Subair, agrees with this point, he stressed that, “Counterfeit medicines don’t cure any disease, rather they put patients’ health at risk because of their contents,” noting that fake drugs “ultimately impede the Nigerian healthcare system as lives are lost and medical conditions worsened due to this cankerworm. It is not an individual’s battle; it requires collective effort.”
“Nigerians need to champion the anti-counterfeit cause, especially as regards healthcare. We need to join hands together because there is no shortcut to health. Due process must be followed to get the best results.
“Unlike commodities, fake drugs are life-threatening. This means patients should only buy prescribed medicines from accredited pharmacies and not quacks or roadside vendors,” he stressed.
Also, the Deputy Director of the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit Substandard Regulated Products Investigation and Enforcement at NAFDAC, Mrs Florence Uba, who represented the acting director-general of the agency, assured the group of the full support of the regulatory agency.
However, she emphasised that NAFDAC would not entertain any favouritism as any fake drug maker caught would be severely dealt with, no matter the connection.
In his presentation, the president of the Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NiroPharm), Mr Femi Soremekun, stated that, “In recent years, the fight against counterfeit pharmaceutical products has taken new dimensions due to the global influx of counterfeiting syndicates, it is like a race against time for pharmaceutical companies – the cost to our collective health and economies is enormous.”
“Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have been perplexed as to how best to nip the challenges in the bud. The challenges are overwhelming owing to the sophistication of the activities of counterfeiters.
“Combating counterfeit pharmaceutical products is a herculean task, one that requires strong collaborations between government agencies and key stakeholders because of the impact,” he added.
It was agreed by the stakeholders present at the event yesterday that to combat the illicit trade of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, there is a strong need for collaboration and must look beyond the surface, which is most times in-ward.
Business Post reports that other organisations which threw their full weight behind CACPP include the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN), the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and the Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (PWDAN), among others.
Also, a prominent Nigerian actor and filmmaker, Mr Ayo Badmus, has backed the initiative as its brand ambassador.
Stanbic IBTC Gives Better Conditions for Healthcare Loan
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Healthcare practitioners intending to get short-term funding support to expand their operations can now do so with better terms from Stanbic IBTC Bank.
The company, which is a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, introduced a package called Healthcare Short-term Loan, which many stakeholders in the health industry have accessed.
In order to make it easier for practitioners to access the credit facility for an improved healthcare sector in the country, the lender has upgraded its short-term loan solution within the healthcare value chain.
This upgrade ensures a flexible repayment period, with an affordable interest rate and zero collateral to enable sector players to access better financing and achieve optimal service delivery.
The healthcare loan, which now offers a longer tenor of 12 months, affordable interest rate and zero collateral, will foster more investment in the sector and enhance strategic relationships to generate new businesses.
Speaking at the Medic West Africa Conference, the Head of Specialized Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, noted that effective collaboration between financial institutions and healthcare organizations is key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.
She advised financial institutions to be more intentional about complementing the government’s efforts, saying, “Stanbic IBTC has a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare industry and its intricacies. This knowledge inspires us to continue to design innovative yet affordable solutions to boost healthcare businesses across the country.”
According to her, despite Nigeria being Africa’s largest healthcare market, challenges in the health sector include inadequate healthcare infrastructure and insufficient financing.
“Stanbic IBTC is passionate about driving change, hence our partnership with key stakeholders in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance.
“We achieve this by offering flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers and strategically partnering with the players in the healthcare ecosystem,” she said.
“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for businesses in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and ultimately grow their healthcare businesses,” Ms Ike-Okoli added.
The Head of Coverage, Commercial Clients at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Babatunde Akindele, also stated that the newly improved healthcare short-term loan is a necessary investment.
“Healthcare is a basic need that everyone should access easily. The pandemic has increased the pressure on the health sector by revealing the urgent need to expand healthcare facilities. Stanbic IBTC has taken yet another step in the right direction to improve healthcare infrastructure and enable qualitative service delivery, which will restore the hope of many Nigerians,” he said.
The growth of the Nigerian healthcare sector rests on impactful and innovative finance solutions positioned to create a level playing field for businesses to thrive. Stanbic IBTC has said it remains committed to blazing the trail in this regard.
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