Umenwa: Steady Power Supply Can Reduce Cost of Drugs by 40%

Emmanuel Umenwa

Emmanuel Umenwa is the Chairman, Geneith Pharmaceutical Limited. In this interview with journalists, Umenwa, who said constant power supply will ensure cost of drugs is drastically reduced, also spoke on the activities of the company, especially the recently concluded campaign to create awareness on how to use malaria drugs to achieve maximum efficacy. Martins Ifijeh brings excerpts

What do you consider the greatest threat to quality medication and administration in Nigeria?
There is a multiplicity of threats to the pharmaceutical industry; principal among these would be operational cost and policy summersault. The cost of doing business in Nigeria has remained high. Steady power supply alone can reduce by 40 per cent the operational cost of doing pharmaceutical business in Nigeria. There is also the need to improve the ease of doing business whether it is importation of machinery, raw materials or finished products. Government policies need to be more stable to encourage long time planning. Multiple taxation is another factor limiting the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

How has Geneith Pharm impacted the Nigeria economy? Does the company have CSR programme?
Apart from primarily producing affordable and quality pharmaceutical products, we have been engaged in series of humanitarian gestures in our immediate environment and the nation at large. We have supported health advocacy groups with information, sponsorships and pharmaceutical products. We have partnered with various institutions like Federal Medical Centres in Birnin Kebbi, Abeokuta and Abakiliki (just to mention but a few) in developing infrastructure critical to the delivery of affordable and quality healthcare in these institutions.

What was the inspiration for setting up Geneith Pharm and how has the company faired in the pharmaceutical industry amidst competition?
Geneith pharmaceuticals Limited was birthed out of the desire to bridge the gap in certain critical areas of healthcare delivery. Hitherto, the major players in the pharmaceutical industries were companies from Europe and America. The Asian Tigers offered more affordable options and we keyed in and established partnership with well-known GMP certified pharmaceutical industries that guaranteed quality.
This was how we came to be known and associated with quality. Our core values of integrity, commitment and innovation have stood us apart from other companies.

Where do you see the company in the next five years in terms of innovation?
We want to position Geneith Pharmaceuticals Limited as a 21st century company that will respond to the technologically driven needs of its teaming customers. We want to develop world class brands that are acceptable both locally and internationally. We are deploying technology in its latest forms in building a world class factory and a customer driven commercial interface. In five years’ time, we want to be able to service the needs of our customers from their most convenient location within the confines of the provision of the relevant regulatory authorities.

Recently, the company launched a campaign on malaria awareness. What triggered this campaign?
As a business concern, our primary target is to deliver a healthy ROI for our investors. However, as a form of giving back to the society, we deemed it fit to provide needed information on malaria prevention, testing and treatment (PTT). Activities hinged on these three pillars have been carried out as a form of CRS. You would be surprised that issues as seemingly insignificant as storage condition can cause degradation and subsequently ineffectiveness of some drugs, for example, the soft gels. In summary total malaria awareness from A-Z is what we hope to achieve in this campaign.

On our product portfolios, Camosunate is the premium brand of the company and also the premium brand of its genre. It is a double strength combination of Amodiaquine and Artesunate with a shelf life of over 30 days, hence the residual protection it offers. It comes in four ages ranges of adult, Junior, children and pediatric. The children (one to six) and pediatric doses (zero to11) are vanilla flavored, and comes in easily dissolvable granules. They are unit dose formulation, meaning they are used up all at once dose. There is no need for storage or reconstitution and hence no degradation of active ingredient. There is no external contact with water and so hydrolysis is not feasible. All these attributes combine to make Camosunate a brand of choice in treatment of malaria. In the absence of an effective immune response for malaria infections, Camosunate provides the most suitable option in tackling relapse and treatment failure in the malaria therapy.

The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of malaria burden. In 2017, the region was home to 92 per cent of malaria cases and 93 per cent of malaria deaths. With all the medications or drugs in the market, why is malaria still this endemic in Africa?
We live in an environment whose climatic and economic realities support the thriving of the female anopheles mosquito, the vector responsible for the transmission of the malaria parasite. The environmental challenges such as poor drainages (breeding grounds for mosquito) poor sanitary standard and a plethora of economically challenged populace has made malaria prevention a herculean task and eradication a mirage for now especially in Africa (and sub-Sahara Africa to be more precise).

What is the role of softgel technology in fighting malaria causing mosquito?
Softgel is a unique technology that delivers the active ingredient of anti-malaria faster by eliminating multiple processes of disintegration of granules to solution before absorption. This enhances a faster onset of action. The soft gelatin nature of the capsules makes it tasteless, odorless and easy to swallow. All these attributes ensure compliance (a major challenge with drug administration). The ultimate result is a rapid relief from the symptoms of malaria.

As the name implies, softgels are made of soft gelatin. It is an oral dosage similar to a capsule. It consists of a gelatin shell surrounding liquid fill. It is essentially a combination of gelatin, water and an opacifier and plasticizer. Soft gelatin capsules are generally sensitive to high temperature and humidity. Therefore they should be stored in a cool dry place below 30 centigrade.

What do you think Nigerians need to learn more about soft gels?
It should be protected from heat and moisture. It should not be left in enclosed environment that could precipitate unwarranted heat and moisture. For instance, they should not be left for long in the booth of a car or kept near a source of elevated temperature. Coastal soft gel is an example of such soft gelatin capsules. It is quite affordable at less than ₦800 per dose in the retail outlets.