Malaria Needs More Attention in Nigeria than COVID-19, Says Parasitologist

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– As St. Racheal’s unveils antimalarial

A Professor and Consultant Medical Parasitologist, Wellington A. Oyibo, has decried the neglect of malaria and other diseases’ treatment in Nigeria for COVID-19, describing it as a misplaced priority as the nation has recorded more morbidity and mortality from malaria than Coronavirus.

The expert, who works at the ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, ascribed the surge in malaria mortality to diversion of attention from malaria commodities’ production to COVID-19 commodities in the year 2020.

Citing figures from the World Health Organisation Malaria Report (WMR) 2020, Oyibo said the total number of deaths from malaria was 95,418, while total mortality from COVID-19 as at 27 March, 2021, was just 2,039.

He warned against the continuation of this trend, saying if the goal of eradicating malaria in Nigeria will be a reality, then effective and coordinated responses from all stakeholders – government, industry, research institutions, communities, media and others – are critical to attaining the target.

The tropical diseases expert gave a further breakdown of data from the WMR 2020, saying it showed that Nigeria had 60,959,012 cases of malaria, compared to just 162,388 cases of coronavirus in the time under review.

L-R: Prof.Wellington A. Oyibo, ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba; Pharm. (Mrs) Olubamiwo Adeosun, wife of the Chairman & Secretary to the State Government, SSG,Oyo State; Pharm.Akinjide Adeosun, Chairman/CEO, St. Racheal’s Pharmaceuticals and Pharm. (Mrs) Bukky George, Founder/CEO, HealthPlus Pharmacy at the 3rd anniversary and launch of St. Racheal’s antimalarial in Lagos.

He emphasised that in order to forestall escalation of malaria morbidity and mortality in the country, there is need for accelerated access to malaria medicines, which must be facilitated by government and other stakeholders.

The medical parasitologist, who was the guest speaker at the St. Racheal’s Pharma 3rd anniversary and antimalarial launch, also examined the prevalence of malaria on the global landscape, asserting that there has been a steady increase in number of cases from 2015 to 2019, except a marginal reduction in 2017. The WMR 2020 put malaria cases from 2015 to 2019 as follows: 212,000,000, 216,000,000, 213,000,000, 228,000,000, and 229,000,000 respectively.

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“I urge government to restrategise her health allocation in tackling other diseases, as it is evident that malaria treatment was on the front burner of many African countries, until April when the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS-CoV-2) became widespread and access to malaria commodities was interrupted with reduced production and diversion of attention from malaria commodities’ production to COVID-19 commodities”, he stressed.

The Chief Executive Officer, St. Racheal’s Pharma, Pharm. Akinjide Adeosun, while remarking on the unveiling of its antimalarial brand and the theme of the company’s third anniversary, “Malaria in the times of COVID-19: A forgotten disease?”, said the organisation has got everything to be thankful for as it continues to grow in leaps and bounds every day.

He said:  “As an organisation, we profusely thank God almighty for His steadfast love which never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.

“We are celebrating because we know our trajectory – enshrined in our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG): To be the No 2 pharmaceutical transnational company by 2035 – is achievable. I urge you to demand for St. Racheal’s antimalarial brand as your first choice anytime, any day you require malaria treatment. We are a proudly Nigerian organisation, with multinational ways of doing things. Your patronage will help us create more jobs for our economy.”

Adeosun highlighted milestones achieved by the company in the space of three years to include: “Capital appreciation of +25% from N1.80k to N2.25k; increase in brands from zero in 2018 to seven NAFDAC registered antibiotics and antimalarial brands in 2020; double digit commercial growth of +22% in 2020 vs 2019; recruitment of sales representatives from major cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja”, among others.

The St. Racheal’s Pharma boss also hinted on how the company plans to consolidate and pursue its goals, anchored on three strategic pillars of treatment, supplementation (nutraceuticals) and prevention.

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More interestingly, he revealed the company’s proposed establishment of a vaccine manufacturing company to augment the vaccine supply in the country.

“We shall commence the business development process for the establishment of a vaccine manufacturing company. We are currently assessing three potential state governments for a NLNG public –private partnership model vaccine manufacturing factory in Nigeria. We are utilising PESTEL tool to prequalify our potential partner – political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal – and determine the best fit for our organisation. This is a long term project that will position and deliver lifesaving vaccines for Nigerians in and out of the pandemic”, he disclosed.

For more innovative interventions in malaria prevention and treatment, he urged the Federal Government to allocate a minimum of 20 per cent of the national budget to the health sector in 2022, unlike the seven per cent in the 2021 budget, which he described as a clear violation of the African Union Abuja Accord of 2001 that mandates all signatories to set aside a minimum 15 per cent of national budgets for healthcare.

Reviewing the pharmacological properties of the newly launched St. Racheal’s Antimalarial, made of Artemether 80 mg and Lumefantrine 480 mg, Pharm. Uche Ogbo, of the Department of Clinical and Biopharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos, said the ACT has well tolerated pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics and it is safe, very affordable and accessible to all.

Since absorption of Lumefantrine is highly influenced by lipids and food intake, she encouraged patients to always take the medication with some fatty food as soon as it can be tolerated.

 

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