Nigeria’s drug research institute, NIPRD, says although it has identified a vital ingredient that could help in treating COVID-19, it is not getting enough funding for research and production of pharmaceutical products needed.
The Director-General of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Obi Adigwe, made this known at a briefing in Abuja on Monday, details of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained Saturday.
Mr Adigwe said the agency has identified an active ingredient in its product, Niprimmune, that could be used in treating and managing COVID-19 cases.
But lack of adequate funding is limiting the agency from exploring its full potential, he said.
“As far back as a year ago, we used our expertise and artificial learning capacity to identify that this product- Niprimmune may be active in the treatment of COVID-19,” Mr Adigwe said.
“During that time, we have gone to many TV stations to appeal to philanthropists, development partners and other funding agencies to support NIPRD to undertake the remaining scientific activity that will enable us to make this product available for use.”
The Nigerian government established the agency for research and development of drugs, biological products and pharmaceutical raw materials based on indigenous resources.
However, lack of adequate support has frustrated the agency’s efforts to carry out research and deliver its mandate, according to Mr Adigwe.
“Funding has been one of the biggest challenges for NIPRD, ” Mr Adigwe said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Adigwe said data suggests that only 0.04 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is channelled towards research and development.
“There is no developed country in the world that does not spend somewhere between 1 and 5 per cent of their GDPs on research and development,” he said.
“Those countries spend 100 times per capital of what we spend as a country on research.”
He said Africa’s most populous country “is nowhere near where it needs to be”.
Mr Adigwe said the agency wrote letters to at least 30 development partners, philanthropists and foundations, and telecommunication companies for support on the research.
Sadly, only an organisation in Burkina Faso has promised to help take the product to the next level.
He said researchers at the agency felt the pain of the lack of support when the same product was approved by the government of Thailand for COVID-19 treatment.
He noted that leaders and those “who have the financial capacity to support the agency seem star-struck with imported products rather than harnessing their own”.
He said although the government provided some funding for phytomedicines research and vaccines, “this is not enough”.
He said every Nigerian must support the government by funding NIPRD to address the COVID-19 pandemic and others.
Mr Adigwe explained that the threat of medicine security remained high in the country.
He said nothing has changed from the time India and some other countries banned the export of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (APIs) to Nigeria.
“We cannot achieve paradigm shift without prioritisation from key leaders, stakeholders, policymakers and relevant funding.
“We have to be supported in the area of prioritization and funding. Those two things have not happened yet so the threat level to medicine security in Nigeria remains very high,” he said.
The Director-General noted that the agency has over 75 world-class professors and scientists who are ready to do their best for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria.
“We have the world-class capacity here at NIPRD. We are ready to work but we must be supported with prioritisation in the area of funding,” he said.
Mr Adigwe said the agency will develop APs as part of a 10-year plan to ensure medicines security in the country.
“The key things we are going to do to ensure medicines security in the next ten years include developing APIs and stimulating manufacturing in-country; the work we are doing in Nanomedicine which is the first in Africa,” he said.
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