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Nigeria Monitors New Strains of COVID-19, Other Diseases

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said it is on high alert amid global concerns over new strains of COVID-19.

This was made known yesterday at a press conference in Abuja, where the health body said over 663 million confirmed cases and over 6.7 million deaths had been reported globally.

Speaking at the event, NCDC Director General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said: “Globally, more than three million new cases and ten thousand deaths have been reported in the week of December 26, 2022, to January 1, 2023. This represents a reduction in weekly cases and deaths of 22 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.

“The African Region reports a 73 per cent and 32 per cent decrease in new cases and deaths compared to the previous week.

“In the Americas and Western Pacific (including China), there has been a 74 per cent and 29 per cent increase in cases and a 49 per cent and 35 per cent increase in deaths, respectively. The increase in these countries, in part, is a component of the winter exacerbation of respiratory illness,” the DG said.

Dr Adetifa said the resurgence of COVID-19 in China, following the relaxation of the country’s zero-COVID policy and the unsurprising increase in cases, hospitalisation and deaths, also attracts concerns about the possible emergence of new variants.

He said the variants circulating in China are predominantly BA.5.2 and Bf.7. According to him, these variants have been circulating in other parts of the world, including Nigeria, since 2022.

The Omicron sub-variant, XBB.1.5, which was originally detected in New York in October 2022, is also on the increase in the US and Europe and has now been identified in more than 25 countries. The XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible form of Omicron, but it is not clear if it is more virulent than its ancestor.

The epidemiologist noted that in Nigeria, NCDC has 5,708,974 samples tested, 266,463 confirmed cases, 259,850 discharged cases and, unfortunately 3,155 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

He said COVID-19 has and continues to follow a different epidemiological course in Nigeria and most of Africa, with lesser cases, admissions, and deaths from the Omicron sub-lineages.

On efforts to contain the current threat, he said: “The NCDC-led COVID-19 Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) is closely monitoring the rise in the new Omicron sub-lineage, XBB.1.5, in the U.K. and U.S., and the current resurgence in China and other countries with a high volume of traffic to and from Nigeria.

“The sub-lineages partly responsible for the current increase in COVID-19 cases in other countries (XBB. 1.5 and BF.7) have not yet been detected in the country as of November 2022. We are working on completing testing and analysis for December 2022.

“Since the detection of the Omicron variant in December 2021, its sub-lineage (BQ.1/BQ.1.1) has been dominant in Nigeria.

“It is important to note that regardless of COVID-19 variants in different parts of the world, severe disease, admissions, and deaths disproportionately affect the unvaccinated and those with established risk factors, such as older people and people with co-morbidities.

“The most important action for Nigerians to take is to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as the vaccine is the most important intervention for preventing severe disease, hospitalisation, and death.

“Additionally, though COVID-19 protocols and restrictions have been eased, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to continue to adhere to recommended non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPIs), such as the use of face masks, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of crowded spaces.”

On other infectious diseases, he said: “We continue to respond to infectious diseases, including Lassa fever, Mpox, and more. To date, there are 8,202 suspected cases and 1,067 confirmed cases of Lassa fever across 27 states and 112 council areas.

“Cumulatively, from Week 1 to Week 52, 2022, 189 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate (FR) of 17.7 per cent, which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2021 (20.0 per cent). 72 per cent of all confirmed Lassa fever cases in 2022 were reported from three states (Ondo, Edo and Bauchi).

“Most recently, the NCDC, in collaboration with partners, federal and state stakeholders of the Technical Working Group (TWG), successfully conducted finalisation and validation of a five-year strategic plan to reduce Lassa fever fatality ratio in the country to less than ten per cent.

“We continually appeal to Nigerians to practice personal and environmental hygiene to prevent the infestation of rats in our homes and communities, especially during this dry season, which is when we typically record more cases of Lassa fever cases.”

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Nigeria Surpasses 30% COVID-19 Vaccination Milestone

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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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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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