FG Creates Traditional Medicine Dept to Produce Cure for Malaria

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  • Constitutes committee to end JOHESU strike

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the federal government yesterday in Abuja approved the creation of a traditional medicine department in the Federal Ministry of Health to champion a research into the discovery and application of traditional medicine.

Announcing the approval at the end of wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said the first assignment of the department would be to conduct a research that would lead to the discovery of cure for malaria in Nigeria’s forests.

He also said the council approved a licensing agreement between the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and May & Baker to scale up the commercialisation and marketing of a drug known as Niprizal, to tackle sickle cell disease.
Adewole also said the council approved the establishment of a trauma centre in Owerri, Imo State to handle accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt – Owerri axis.

The approval of the use of traditional medicine by the government yesterday however, came as a surprise, moreso that it was midwifed by the Health Minister who is also a medical doctor. This is inspite of a persistent criticism of traditional medicine by medical practitioners.

“At today’s FEC meeting, government approved the signing of licensing agreement between the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and May & Baker Plc. This is in respect of scaling up commercialisation and marketing of Niprisal, a very potent drug for use in Nigeria.

“As you may 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 per cent of Nigerians carry sickle cell gene and over 2 million have sickle cell anemia, that is having the two genes combined. Many of them when they are under stress take ill. What happens is that invariably, they develop severe pumping crisis, they develop infection and some of them die of this.

“This drug was first used in Oyo State over 20 years ago and NIPRD conducted pre-clinical trials to ensure that we are able to document it. It is safe. It is efficacious. The drug was actually licensed to an international organisation which went bankrupt. So, what we ‘ve done is to reactivate the product and it will now be marketed in Nigeria within this agreement and we believe that its marketing and production in Nigeria will bring a lot of comfort to millions of Nigerians who are afflicted by sickle cell gene.

“The approval of Niprisal is coming on the heels of an approval granted by the government to establish a department of traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health. It will be the first time that this will happen and that department will really provide us with leeway to research into many of our traditional products. The first mandate of this department will be to look into cure for malaria in our forest.

“Again, council also approved the construction of trauma centre at Federal Medical Centre, Owerri at the cost of N840.817 million. This trauma centre should be operated within 48 weeks and we expect that it will serve as a first class centre of care for accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt – Owerri axis and will really change the dynamics of care in this area,”Adewole said.

On the strike action embarked upon by Joint Health Staff Union (JOHESU) in the health sector, Adewole said the government had constituted what he described as a high level body to look into all aspects of demands by the group including the financial implications of such demands. The minister who said the committee also had the mandate to plan for the management and consequences of addressing those demands, pointing out that the claims of an agreement by JOHESU with the last administration was untrue.

He said the committee had met last week Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and this Tuesday adding that it would also meet last night with a view to coming up with solution to the strike.

“So, we are really at work with respect to this. We have done quite a lot of computation. We have met with finance ministry, we have met with budget and national planning ministry. 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 had an agreement with government but we discovered that there 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 would implement minutes of previous meetings and of the 15 points demands, we have met 14 of them over the last one and half years. There is a meeting on the only one left,” he said.