Nigerian govt approves licensing, commercialisation of anti-sickle cell drug

Health Minister, Dr. Isaac Adewole
Health Minister, Dr. Isaac Adewole

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has given approval to the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NAPRED) and May and Baker Plc to scale up the commercialisation and marketing of Niprisan, an anti-sickle cell drug for the treatment of sickle cell patients in Nigeria.

This was revealed on Wednesday by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, while addressing State House correspondents at the end of FEC meeting, held inside the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Mr Adewole said FEC gave the licensing agreement to NAPRED and May and Baker Plc to produce the drugs in commercial scale with the aim of reducing the burden of the disease in Africa and other parts of the world where the disease is common.

Mr Adewole explained that sickle cell disease is a common problem particularly among blacks in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America.

It is estimated that about 25 per cent of Nigerians carry the sickle cell gene and over two million people have sickle cell anemia that is having the two genes combined. 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 die from it, he said.

According to Mr Adewole, the drug was first used in Oyo State over 20 years ago and NAPRED conducted clinical trials to ensure that they were able to document that the drug is safe, efficacious and was licensed at an international organisation which went into bankruptcy.

“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.

Mr Adewole said the approval of Naprisan is coming at the eve of an approval granted by government 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.

Also, the minister said the council approved the construction of a Trauma Centre at Federal Medical Centre, Owerri.

The construction cost is totaled at N840.8 million and the centre must be completed within 48 weeks.

Mr Adewole said the new centre is expect to serve as a first class centre for the care of accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu axis.

The establishment of the centre along that axis is expected to change the dynamics of trauma and accident care in these areas, he said.

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