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‘Merck More than a Mother’ Moves to Asia

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‘Merck More than a Mother’ Moves to Asia

‘Merck More than a Mother’ Moves to Asia

By Dipo Olowookere

Merck, a leading science and technology company through its ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative in partnership with Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE), conducted a panel to address challenges and solutions to improve access to regulated fertility care in Africa and Asia.

The high level panel discussion of policy makers and international fertility experts held during the 7th annual Congress of ASPIRE in Malaysia also focused on exploring opportunities to collaborate with Asian Fertility Societies in order to build cost effective and safe fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

After the success of the collaboration between ‘Merck More than a Mother’ and Indian and Indonesian fertility experts to provide practical embryology training, Merck will connect Africa with Asia to provide more opportunities for building capacity and interventions to empower infertile women and couples.

“Through ‘Merck More than a Mother’ we empower an under-privileged segment of women. Women who couldn’t bear children and for this they are discriminated and mistreated by their husbands, families and communities. In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. This is unacceptable and has to change through our campaign,” emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

“When I created ‘Merck More than a Mother’ I knew important women around the world would rally to the cause but I was surprised at their enthusiasm and the speed at which they did so.

“First ladies; ministers of health; ministers of gender; parliament members; fertility experts; presidents of fertility societies; CEOs of successful businesses; women and men are strongly supporting this campaign every day,” Rasha Kelej added.

The high level panel discussion included: Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess Azizah of Pahang, Founder and Life President, Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation, Malaysia; Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Zuliatu Cooper, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Betty  Amongi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda; Julieta Kavetuna, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Namibia; Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr Ivan Sini, Chairman, Indonesian Reproductive Sciences Institute; Dr Kamini Rao, Chairperson of International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria; Dr Jaideep Malhotra, immediate Past President, ASPIRE India; Prof. Joe Simpson, Immediate Past President, International Federation of Fertility Societies; and Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess Azizah of Pahang, Founder and Life President, Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation, Malaysia, emphasized at the high level panel that she strongly supports ‘Merck More than a Mother’ campaign to support all infertile women, not only in Africa but all over the world. “Infertility is a global issue, all childless women face different kinds of social suffering and mistreatment everywhere in the world,” she said.

Minister of State for Health of Uganda, Sarah Opendi emphasized: “In Uganda, between 15-20% of couples fail to conceive. Fertility clinics in the country to address this problem are few and expensive. Together with ‘Merck More than a Mother’ and as ‘Merck More than a Mother’ Ambassador; we are together with Merck creating awareness that infertility can be prevented and that to improve access, fertility care can be integrated into the existing public reproductive healthcare services which will be cost effective as the infrastructure is already there. In addition we are building a hospital for Women Health where an IVF center will be established to provide couples with affordable and effective treatment with the support of the Merck Embryologist Training Program”.

Sierra Leone’s Minister State of Health and Sanitation Zuliatu Cooper explained: “In Sierra Leone, infertile couples are suffering every day because we do not have facilities to diagnose or treat them. Through ‘Merck More than a Mother’ that is championed by H. E. First Lady of Sierra Leone, Merck in partnership with Ministry of Health will support fertility care training, where we are making history in the country as we are going to establish our platform of fertility experts so that childless couples can be treated in their home country for the first time.”

“This a historic achievement for Africa, as ‘Merck More than a Mother’ will do the same in Liberia where currently there are no fertility care facilities and infertile couples have to get treatment abroad too,” Zuliatu Cooper added.

Dr Ivans Sini, Chairman, Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute (IRSI) stated: “We are very happy to partner with Merck to provide this practical high technology training for the first time to establish African embryologists platform to be able together to improve access to safe and cost effective fertility care in Africa, it is a great initiative and we are very proud to be part of it.”

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Nigeria Surpasses 30% COVID-19 Vaccination Milestone

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COVID-19 vaccination milestone

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A new report has revealed that Nigeria has surpassed the milestone of fully vaccinating 30 per cent of its total population as a result of a sustained COVID-19 vaccination rollout in recent months.

Nigeria has maintained the COVID-19 vaccine rollout through campaigns and initiatives with the support of stakeholders, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. COVAX, which Gavi co-leads with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), WHO and UNICEF, has supplied over 91 million COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria (about 65 per cent of all vaccines received) and over 669 million to the African continent.

The country has also developed an integrated micro-plan featuring routine immunisation alongside COVID-19 vaccinations with a bottom-up approach taking into account individual state’s plans.

Recall that in January 2022, the country reported less than 3 per cent coverage, but dedicated efforts by the government and stakeholders in rolling out relevant strategies to sustain COVID-19 vaccination amidst competing health priorities have caused the COVID-19 vaccination milestone.

According to Gavi, key drivers behind the success of this year’s drive include leadership and improved coordination at the local, state and national levels, as well as innovation, such as the increase in mobile vaccination sites.

With more teams being supported to take the vaccines to communities rather than wait for visits to facilities, missed opportunities are being reduced.

The country also adopted a strategy to track the performance of the vaccination teams in the various states through daily call-in data. The performance of states is being ranked, and this is disseminated daily on social media and provides healthy competition across the states.

Nigeria has also set up COVID-19 Crisis Communication Centre (CRICC) at the national and state levels, ensuring targeted demand-generation activities were adopted and rolled out across the country.

The country has also integrated a service delivery approach with teams empowered to provide multiple arrays of services – COVID-19 vaccination, and routine immunization, ensuring that other key health services were not neglected.

Dr Richard Mihigo, Director of COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery, Coordination and Integration at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which leads on procurement and delivery at scale for COVAX, said, “Nigeria has become a case study on how to roll out COVID-19 vaccines at scale and speed and at the same time, catch up on routine immunization programmes.

“The country’s surveillance systems are efficient and precise, enabling monitoring of trends as well as promptly responding to counter vaccine misinformation increasing acceptability of the vaccines.”

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Streamlining and Increasing Pharmacy Inventory Workflow

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Pharmacies are an essential part of the healthcare system. However, managing pharmacy inventory is difficult for pharmacists due to the complexity of tracking stock levels and expiration dates. Streamlining and increasing pharmacy inventory workflows help make this process more efficient. Here are some tips that can help pharmacies maximize their inventory workflow.

Use Pharmacy Inventory Solutions

With comprehensive pharmacy inventory solutions, pharmacists will keep track of all their supplies in an organized manner. Such solutions offer a wide range of features to help streamline the inventory process and make it easier for pharmacies to manage their inventory. Features such as automated order fulfilment, real-time stock visibility, and streamlined processes help reduce mistakes and save time.

Automate Reordering Processes

Automating the reordering process is another way to increase pharmacy workflow efficiency. By automating the ordering process, pharmacies no longer have to manually place orders or check on availability when items are out of stock. This allows pharmacists to focus on more important tasks instead of wasting time on mundane administrative chores. Additionally, automated reordering systems allow better tracking and forecasting of inventory needs.

Implement Barcode Scanning

A barcode scanner is very helpful for pharmacies in tracking inventory levels and identifying items quickly. This helps to reduce errors and streamline the process of counting inventory. Barcode scanners are also used with automated reordering solutions to ensure orders are placed accurately and on time.

Additionally, barcode scanners track expiration dates and alert staff when items need to be restocked or thrown away. This way, pharmacists don’t have to worry about expired products on the shelves.

Utilize Analytics Tools

Analytics tools provide pharmacies with valuable insight into their inventory workflow and help them identify areas where they may need improvements. With analytics, pharmacists can track trends in sales data and stock levels and monitor customer buying patterns. That allows them to anticipate customer needs better and adjust their ordering processes accordingly. It also helps pharmacists track certain items’ performance and decide what products best suit their business model.

Proper Employee Training

Employees are the foundation of any successful business, and proper employee training is essential for ensuring that pharmacy inventory workflow processes are efficient. Pharmacists should ensure that their staff is properly trained to use the various systems and tools. Training should also include tips on how to keep up with stock levels, expiration dates, and drug interactions. With the right training, employees help prevent errors and save time when managing the pharmacy’s inventory.

Invest in Quality Control

Pharmacists should also invest in quality control processes to ensure that their inventory remains updated. Quality control procedures help identify discrepancies or issues with the inventory and alert staff when problems occur. This helps prevent expired items from reaching customers or mistakes made with orders. Quality control processes also help pharmacies save money by preventing waste and ensuring that items are ordered in the right quantities.

Focus on Customer Service

Finally, pharmacies should focus on providing excellent customer service. This involves ensuring that customers have accurate information about their medications and being available whenever they need help.

Pharmacists should also take the time to answer customer questions and address any concerns they may have. This way, pharmacists ensure that customers leave satisfied, leading to better sales and repeat business.

Implementing the strategies mentioned above helps streamline and increase pharmacy inventory workflow. Automating reordering processes, utilizing analytics tools, investing in quality control, and focusing on customer service are great ways to improve efficiency and increase profits. Pharmacies will operate more smoothly and efficiently with the right systems and processes.

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Research Shows Interorganisational Deals Boost Drug Discovery, Innovation

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interorganisational deal

By Adedapo Adesanya

In a recent study published in the journal Drug Discovery Today, a team of scientists at Ritsumeikan University in Japan analysed the changing trends in pharmaceutical industries to spotlight the role of interorganisational collaborations in promoting drug discovery and innovation.

Discovering new drugs has become increasingly rare for independent large pharmaceutical companies in recent times. With numbers showing that almost 60 per cent of new drugs are discovered through mergers and acquisitions and drug licensing.

Now, the university researchers shed light on the recent trends of spinouts from academia and investments in the US and Europe, foreshadowing a promising shift in the industry’s interorganisational deal networks to improve research and development productivity in the future.

“It is a challenging feat to launch a new drug in the market, given the low probability of success during the research and development (R&D) phase and the high costs involved. In recent times, industry trends in external innovation for drug discovery are rapidly changing.  With an improved understanding of disease biology, decision-making can be more streamlined through the effective use of scientific information,” a statement made available to Business Post said.

Led by Associate Professor Kota Kodama of Ritsumeikan University, the team is uncovering how the trends in interorganisational deals in the pharmaceutical industry are changing to improve R&D productivity and drug discovery.

“The network structure of innovation creation in the pharmaceutical industry has changed with the increasing emergence of start-up companies spinning out from academia and research institutions as players in the source of innovation,” explains Dr Kodama, while discussing their investigations into these changing trends and the results of which were made available online on December 27, 2022, and published in volume 28 issue 3 of the journal Drug Discovery Today on March 1, 2023.

Their research suggests that the knowledge necessary for breakthrough innovation in drug discovery is more often than not obtained through alliance networks.

Over the past decade, large research-based pharmaceutical companies have used research collaborations, innovation incubators, academic centres of excellence, public-private partnerships, mergers and acquisitions (M&As), drug licensing, and corporate venture capital funds as typical methods for external innovation.

The researchers now aim to define the changes in the network structure and nature of such alliances that have occurred over the past decade to provide future strategic insights for industry and academic players involved in drug discovery.

Using data from the Cortellis Competitive Intelligence database, the researchers identified nearly 50,000 deals of various kinds related to pharmaceutical R&D across pharmaceutical, digital health software, animal drug, and medical device companies to uncover trends in the creation of new drugs for human use.

They also studied the trends of 13 of the largest pharmaceutical companies with annual revenues of more than $10 billion, who saw an improvement in their CAGR (compound annual growth rate) since 2015.

The researchers noticed that the rising CAGR correlated to a significant change in M&A-related deals after 2015, indicating that M&A-related deals drive revenue growth for large pharmaceutical companies.

Furthermore, the number of organizations involved in interorganisational deals has been increasing yearly from 2012 to 2021. Although the number of organizations involved and the number of deals may be increasing, the density of the deal networks is decreasing annually, suggesting that networks are becoming more non-cohesive.

The concentration of business relationships between organizations of certain areas in the network changed to dispersion around 2015, and new networks connecting different groups started to form after 2017.

These trends are an important illustration of how the industry landscape is gradually evolving away from the traditional network in which large pharmaceutical companies drove drug discovery output. Now, interorganisational deals among more diverse players have become active and are driving R&D productivity for startups in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

A clear increase in the number of academia-owned spinouts of advanced technology and expansion of investment in start-ups is a positive sign. The emergence of new chemical modalities, such as biologics, oligonucleotides, and peptides that differ from traditional small molecule drug discovery, indicate remarkable changes that have taken place over the past two decades.

The trend of increased financing for start-up companies in personalized drug development is beneficial for patent creation and will positively impact innovation creation in the coming years.

“The presence of academia to support the technologies of these start-ups is becoming very important, and government and private support and investment in this area are boosting innovation. Our study shows that such medium- and long-term support may ultimately benefit the health and well-being of humankind,” Dr Kodama noted.

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