The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) on Saturday called for increased investment and research funding to contain public health challenges such as malaria, emerging and re-emerging diseases like COVID-19 and Ebola.
The society’s President, Mr Sam Ohuabunwa, made the call as Nigerians joined to commemorate the World Malaria Day marked every April 25, to draw global attention to the burden of malaria.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Zero Malaria begins with me”.
Ohuabunwa said that innovative strategies to end extreme poverty would also impact positively on efforts to contain public health challenges.
According to him, as COVID-19 pandemic challenges the entire world, the importance of strong health systems to fight deadly infectious diseases like malaria, becomes more obvious.
Ohuabunwa noted that Nigeria was far from becoming malaria free, but was making remarkable progress.
He cited a World Health Organisation (WHO) world malaria report of December 2019, where Nigeria came from almost 153, 000 deaths in 2010 to about 95 000 deaths in 2018, accounting for almost 24 per cent of all global malaria deaths.
Ohuabunwa, however, said the country needs to rethink her budget and investment in infrastructure, especially the health sector for stronger and robust health care systems which can withstand pressure in the face of a pandemic.
“We commend the proactive initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the N100 billion Pharma Industry Intervention Funds, and hope for a timely disbursement devoid of unnecessary bureaucracies.
“But we note that there are still a lot of gaps in funding research and development.
“The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development ( NIPRD) and the Schools of Pharmacy in Nigeria have all it takes to make Nigeria a hub for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), but grossly underfunded.
“Unless we take charge of malaria interventions, elimination and eradication of the disease may not be near, ” he said in a statement.
Ohuabunwa said that Nigeria could not continue to depend on handouts from donors to fight malaria and other infectious diseases
“The present COVID-19 pandemic is a drama rehearsal of the worst to come. Several countries have shut their doors to export of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and APIs within the pandemic.
“America has threatened to halt her part of WHO funding of about 12 per cent of WHO’s annual spending. We need to get to work now. We cannot continue to depend on handouts,” he said.
Ohuabunwa said there was the need to pay deliberate attention to the community pharmacists who provided over 60 per cent of the malaria interventions in the country.
He urged the Federal Government to structure single digit, less encumbered loans to assist the business aspect of the practice to improve availability and access to medicines.
According to him, it is a core responsibility of government to ensure affordable pharmaceutical care for its citizens.
“Drugs are lifesaving special commodities and should not be allowed to compete with luxury items for high interest loans.
“Malaria rapid test kits should be dropped at community pharmacies for free testing of patients prior to commencement of chemotherapy, “he said.
The PSN president pledged the society’s commitment toward a malarial free Nigeria and world.
“PSN wishes Nigerians, more than ever, a Malaria free life as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ohuabunwa said.