– Expert says medical scientists still searching for effective cure
In commemoration of the 2015 World Cancer Day, the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists in Academia (NAPA) has taken its campaign to secondary schools in the state to create more awareness about malignant diseases.
Addressing a large crowd comprising students and teaching staff of Aturase Junior and Secondary School within the premises of the school in Surulere, Lagos, on 4 February, 2014, Pharm. Nelson Okwonna, managing director of Dabar Pharmaceuticals explained that the human body had the capacity to fight off diseases.
“Our job is to help it (the body). Depending on how we go about it, it can build or kill itself,” he said.
While lamenting Nigeria’s dismal health statistics based on World Health Organisation (WHO) 2001 report where the country ranked 187th out of 191 countries, the pharmacist noted that over 65 per cent of the Nigerian populace lived below poverty level.
Okwonna, who is also currently the executive director of West African Pharmaceutical Innovation Project (WAPIP), disclosed that breast cancer, arguably the most common malignancy in Nigeria, claims 25,000 women annually.
He declared that other malignant diseases such as cervical cancer which kills a woman every hour, totalling an estimated 8,000 deaths in a year, and prostate cancer, which affects 100 out of every 100,000 men in the country,were equally dangerous.
The expert stated that, in the absence of screening, it had been discovered that additional 100,000 new cancer cases were springing up and adding to the pool every year.
“Since the discovery of penicillin, medical science has been looking for magic bullets. Chronic diseases, unlike infectious diseases, are not caused by external invasion. Whether it is hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or cancer, the body simply fails,” Okwonna noted.
The interactive seminar also gave room for teachers and students in attendance to ask questions on the importance of herbs in treating ailments and the role of diet in the fight against cancer.
Responding to the queries, Okwonna opined that people should watch what they eat.
“Let your food be your medicine. Most of the processed foods you eat are not different. Compare a child who eats noodles and ‘puff-puff’ everyday to one who eats yam and other fresh farm produce. Can they be said to look the same? The fact that a child is growing doesn’t mean he is healthy,” he said.
The Dabar Pharmacy boss equally warned against erection of telecom mast and towers near residential homes, saying they posed serious risks to human health due to the radiation they emit.
Corroborating his statements, Dr Rebecca Soremekun, a senior lecturer in the department of Clinical Pharmacy and Biopharmacy, University of Lagos, wondered why parents would compel children to take noodles when fresh vegetables, fruits and natural produce were so cheap.
“All these foods you are forcing them to eat are processed foods and chemicals. How much does it cost to buy ‘ugu’ (pumpkin leaves) and yam? Some of you also mentioned ‘agbo’ (local herbs) as alternative to proper treatment of ailment and diseases. We are not saying “agbo” is bad. The only problem we have with it is that it has no dosage or scale of measurement. Some claim that they used a cup to measure the dosage. Can we sincerely conclude then that it is safe to use?” she queried.
According to Soremekeun, some mischievous people even hide under the guise of drinking herbs to load their system with alcohol.
“This is the time to take your health serious. If you have been diagnosed as having diabetes, go for regular check-up and continue taking your drugs regularly. A normal blood level is 120/80, in some 120/70. But if yours shoots up, visit your doctor immediately,” she counselled.
The specialist also advised students (in sciences department) to consider studying Pharmacy as a course when applying for university admission.
“Once you are able to pass Physics, Chemistry and Biology, you will make it. Aside being a community pharmacist, you will also have the privilege to become a lecturer in academia like me, work in hospitals, top organisations and politics like our (aspiring) governor, Jimi Agbaje. I believe many of us know that he is a pharmacist,” she said.
Soremekun added further that once the studentswere admitted to study Pharmacy, they would need to undergo five years of training in the faculty of Pharmacy to attain a minimum of Bachelor of Pharmacy degree.
“Once through, you will be required to undergo another one year internship under a registered pharmacist before you can become a licensed pharmacist,” she revealed.
Also in attendance at the event were Pharm. Oluwatosin Adeymi, chairman, University of Lagos (UNILAG) branch of NAPA; Pharm. Bamisaye Oyawaluja, vice chairman; Pharm. Alexander Akinola, lecturer, department of Clinical Pharmacy & Biopharmacy; and Pharm. Aminat Oyawaluja, lecturer, department of Pharmacognosy.