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Prioritising universal health coverage to tackle heart problems

By Sunday Aikulola
08 June 2023   |   3:16 am
A consultant cardiologist and professor at the Cardiology Unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/ Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Amam Chinyere Mbakwem...

A stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted due to blockage or rapture in arteries or blood vessels, which prevent brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, leading to brain cell death in a matter of minutes. CREDIT: https://www.yashodahealthcare.com

• Pfizer, cardiologists introduce Eliquis to prevent serious blood clots caused by irregular heartbeat

A consultant cardiologist and professor at the Cardiology Unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/ Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Amam Chinyere Mbakwem, has urged the Bola Tinubu administration to prioritise Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to tackle Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

Atrial fibrillation (also called Afib or AF) is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that begins in the upper (atria) of the heart. Speaking at the launch of Eliquis, manufactured by Pfizer in Lagos, recently, Mbakwem disclosed that AF increases risk of ischaemic stroke.

An ischemic stroke occurs, when blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can reduce brain damage and other complications.

Apixaban, sold under the brand name Eliquis, is an anticoagulant medication used to treat and prevent blood clots and stroke in people with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation through directly inhibiting factor Xa. Factor Xa inhibitors are drugs that keep one’s blood from clotting too much. Specifically, it is used to prevent blood clots following hip or knee replacement and in persons with a history of prior clots. It is used as an alternative to warfarin and does not require monitoring by blood tests or dietary restrictions. It is taken by mouth.

Mbakwem said AF is a type of heart arrhythmia characterised by disorganised, rapid irregular atrial rhythm that cause irregular contractions in the ventricles.

According to Mbakwem, AF occurs because the electrical impulses causing the contractions are abnormal and uncoordinated. She listed other challenges as out-of-pocket expenditure, lack of trained personnel, long distance travel to access healthcare and high cost of health care.

She insisted that if the current government works on UHC, this would go a long way in bridging gaps. Describing AF as a progressive disease, she identified risks factors such as ageing, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, obesity, genetics, male sex and ethnicity, among others.

Mbakwem further stressed the need for individuals to observe lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, having positive mindset, controlling blood sugar level, ensuring blood pressure is controlled and avoiding stimulants.

In his speech, Country Manager and Cluster Lead West Africa, Pfizer, Olayinka Subair, said: “We are driving health equity across our markets through affordability programmes for those who cannot afford them, such as subscription models and flexible payment options.”

Speaking further, he said Eliquis is included on Project Taksit to address patient affordability challenges. “We have already made enormous progress towards putting affordability at the heart of our business.

“At Pfizer, we envision a future where disease doesn’t win, but science does, and that patients, regardless of where they live across West Africa, will have access to life-saving medicines, treatments, and vaccines. Today and in the future, we focus on creative, innovative, and scalable solutions that address all unmet needs and critical public health challenges,” he added.

While working tirelessly in partnership with healthcare professionals, communities, and governments, to change the lives of millions of people across West Africa, he said bringing Eliquis to patients is a fulfillment driven by science “as we are always working to bring breakthroughs to our patients. Today, we are happy to bring the breakthrough that addresses prevention of stroke in heart conditions.”