Olpharm Nigeria Limited, in conjunction with Biological E Limited, recently joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday, 28 July, at the Glass House, Department of Clinical Studies, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
The event, themed “Hepatitis-free future,” with a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns, was attended by medical practitioners from LASUTH, as well as staff of Olpharm.
Speaking at the occasion, which was also used to launch BEVAC hepatitis B vaccine, Pharm. Johnson Olusetire, managing director/CEO, Olpharm Nigeria Limited, said: “One of the reasons for the celebration is to rejoice with the world and also to announce the hepatitis B vaccine, called BEVAC, a product of Biological E. Limited, in partnership with Olpharm Nigeria Limited.”
Olusetire noted that the vaccine was produced to provide immediate solution to the rising hepatitis B epidemic in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
He added that the vaccine had been subsidised, with support from LASUTH and 21 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) belonging to the Hepatitis Alliance, so that people can easily afford it.
He also said: “An important thing to note is that there is a need for testing. We have some centres and hospitals that we do send patients to in order to get tested for free, After testing and we find out that they are negative, it means they have to take three courses of the vaccine and if they are positive they have to take haemoglobin.
“Hepatitis is a viral infection, just like COVID. About 11 per cent of Nigerians are carriers of hepatitis B. We have a lot of symptoms like fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, liver enlargement. One has to go for liver test and after discovering the heart has been enlarged or inflamed then treatment needs to start.
Giving assurance of the efficacy of BEVAC, Olusetire said: “After taking the courses of the vaccine you can be protected for life. It has been very effective. Everyone needs this vaccine, at least for protective measures. This vaccine is highly essential for everyone, including infants, children, teenagers and adults. It helps fight against bacteria, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and tetanus.”
Also speaking at the event, Dr Cara Cookey, senior registrar, Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, LASUTH, said hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which is most commonly caused by viruses.
According to her, there are five types of hepatitis, namely A, B, C, D and E, adding that they can be contracted through different means.
“Hepatitis A and E are mostly contracted through the fecal-oral route. Fecal-oral route describes a particular route of transmission of a disease wherein pathogens in fecal particles pass from one person to the mouth of another person.
“But hepatitis B, C, and D are spread through contact with blood or other body fluids, including semen and vaginal fluid of an infected person,” Cookey said.
She added however that it is very unlikely that hepatitis can be contracted through kissing or sharing of cutlery.
According to Cookey, hepatitis is far deadlier than HIV/AIDS, saying this because while blood from a HIV patient usually cannot survive outside the body for more than 10 or 15 minutes, blood from an infected hepatitis B patient can still be infectious for months.
She added that hepatitis requires more attention from stakeholders in the health sector because it is unlike HIV/AIDS, whose patients can easily have access to free drugs. “Even the testing and stigmatisation can now be controlled, unlike hepatitis,” she said.
Others in attendance were Charles Okunrinju, area sales manager, Olpharm; Professor Charles Onyekwere, head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology unit, LASUTH; Dr Adebo Adekoya, associate professor and head of department, Department of Medicine, LASUTH.