Nigeria okays agreement to float sickle cell drug, Niprisan

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The Federal Executive Council has approved the signing of a licensing agreement between the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development and May & Baker Plc. Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewale revealed this at a briefing on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. He said the agreement would help address the problem of sickle cell anaemia patients in the country.

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“At today’s Federal Executive Council meeting, Government approved the licencing agreement between the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NAPRED and May and Baker Plc. This is in respect of scaling up commercialisation and marketing of Nuprisan, a very potent anti sicken drug for use in Nigeria.

As you might be aware, sickle cell disease is a common problem particularly among blacks in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America and it is estimated that about 25 percent of Nigerians carry the sickle cell gene and over two million people have sickle cell anaemia – that is, having the two genes combined. And for many of them, when they are under stress, take ill, what happens is invariably they develop severe bone crisis, they develop infection and some of them will die from this.

“This drug was first used in Oyo State over 20 years ago and NAPRED conducted clinical trials to ensure that we are able to document that it is safe, it is efficacious and drug was licensed at an international organisation which went into bankruptcy.

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What we have done is to reactivate the product and it will now be marketed in Nigeria through this agreement and we believe that the marketing and production in Nigeria will bring a lot of comfort to millions of Nigerians who are infected with sickle cell gene.” he said.

The Health Minister also announced that the Council approved the sum of N480 million for the establishment of a trauma centre at the Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Imo State.

He said: “Again council also approved the construction of a Trauma Centre at Federal Medical Centre Owerri at the cost of N840, 817, 000 million, and this must be completed within 48 weeks. We expect that it will serve as a first class centre of care for accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt, Owerri- Enugu axis and will really change the dynamics of care in these areas.”

The Minister also announced the establishment of a department of traditional medicine at the Federal Ministry of Health.

“The approval of Niprisan is coming on the heels of an approval granted by government for us to establish a department of traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health.

This will be the first time that this will happen and that department will really provide us the leeway to research into many of our traditional products and the first mandate of this department will be to look into cure for malaria in our forest,” he said.

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JOHESU strike

Commenting on the on-going strike by health workers, the Minister said: “ Government has actually constituted a high level body to look into all aspects of demand, including the financial implications and also to plan for the management of consequences of addressing those demands. That high level body met last week Tuesday, met again on Thursday, met on Friday, met on Sunday, yesterday and will also be meeting tonight.

So we are really at work with respect to this we have done quiet a lot of computation. We have met with finance, we have met with budget and national planning.

We are looking into all issues relating to this strike. But let me also put it on record that when we came on board, JOHESU approached us that they have an agreement with government but we discovered that they was really no agreement with government.

What they were able to provide were minutes of meetings held previously and we told them that no responsible government will implement minutes of previous meetings and of the fifteen points demands, we have met 14 of them over the one and half years. The only one left is currently meeting on.”

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