Don’t neglect malaria because of COVID-19, expert warns

  • as St Racheal’s Pharma launches own brand of Artemether + Lumefantrine

A parasitologist and specialist in the management of malaria has warned against  current neglect of the disease in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, saying malaria remains Nigeria’s number one life threatening disease and is  killing more people in the country than COVID-19.

Speaking at the third anniversary of St. Racheal’s Pharma and launch of its brand of antimalarial drug (artemether 80mg + Lumefantrine 480mg), Consultant Medical Parasitologist, Prof. Wellington Oyibo noted that malaria has been attracting less attention since the emergence of COVID-19, a development, he warned, could escalate the malaria situation in the country.

For instance, he noted that while the total number of cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country so far, as at March 21, 2021 was 162,388, that of malaria was 60,959,012. Similarly, while the number of deaths for COVID-19 in the country within the period under review was 2,039, no fewer than 95,418 deaths were recorded during the same period in the country.

“It gives you everything that is worrisome, far more heart breaking and traumatic than covid, watching children just die, losing young ones and losing adolescents. I have a colleague who lost her 18-year-old daughter in medical school due to cerebral malaria,” he lamented.

Oyibo who is from the ANDI Centre of Excellence for Malaria diagnosis, a research platform in the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Idi-Araba, Lagos, noted that COVID-19 messages aimed at reducing transmission by advising patients with fever to stay at home adding that poor access to PPE for healthcare providers affected care for patients with febrile illness including malaria.

“Access to malaria commodities interrupted with reduced production and diversion of attention from malaria commodities’ production to COVID-19 commodities thereby leading to shortage or stock out. Malaria commodities, though cheaper, were not accessible while COVID-19 were more expensive.

(L-R) Dr.Babatunde Ajayi, Special Assistant on Health to the Lagos-State Governor; Pharm (Mrs.) Olubamiwo Adeosun , Wife of the Chairman & Secretary to the State Government,Oyo-State; Pharm.Akinjide Adeosun, Chairman/CEO, St. Racheal’s  Pharmaceuticals & Pharm.(Mrs.)Bukky George, Founder/CEO, HealthPlus Pharmacy at the event.

“Response from indigenous companies was slow as clear supportive measures were not on ground for growth and expansion. Data on global malaria cases and deaths over the years indicative of neglect or betrayal to expected response – no special support for Severe Mal  cases.”

He commended St Racheal’s pharma for it’s timely introduction of its new antimalarial drug and called for more support for Indigenous manufacturers of malaria commodities especially towards pre-qualification for ACTs for national supplies.

Buttressing Oyibo’s points, the Managing Director of St Racheal’s Pharma. Akinjide Adeosun said hospital visits were low during the pandemic and focus on malaria was neglected and it is still being neglected.

He said: “We have taken it upon ourselves as an organization to increase the awareness of the dangers of malaria,” he said, describing the company’s new drug, Artemetther 80 mg + Lumefantrine 480 mg, as “a brand that will give healthcare professionals and patients peace of mind.”

He further said: “It is my considered opinion that malaria can be eradicated in Nigeria. If we put our strategies right, and our resources, we can eliminate it. This disease is killing more Nigerians daily than covid-19. The launch of our Antimalaria drug today is our contribution to waging war against malaria thereby reducing the menace of mortality and morbidly of this treatable and preventable disease,” Adeosun said.

He disclosed that the company, from inception, has been unambiguously clear that its purpose shall be to improve life expectancy within the communities it serves.

He noted that the launch of its own antimalarial brand was one of the ways to achieving that goal.

“We started the journey to build the best in-class pharmaceutical organization during recession in 2016. We triumphed over several roadblocks.” He said.

In his presentation, Special Assistant on Health to the Lagos State Governor, Dr Babatunde Ajayi lamented that more people died from non covid-19 causes, both malaria and regular infections such as stroke because they could not access care during the lockdown.

He said: “From the statistics I have, a lot of people who come down with malaria, are from the lower range of the society. 

“Forty percent of hospital visits are due to malaria, and that is 10 percent of the general disease burden is on malaria.

“It’s also important to know that a huge 50 percent of Nigerians get malaria, at least once a year, it means that a significant amount of money should be put together both in the treatment of malaria. So at the end of the day, the economic burden of malaria is large.”

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