Why Nigeria can eradicate hepatitis C by 2022, by Oramah
Ahead of the World Hepatitis Day (WHD) 2019, Sunday July 28, Managing Director of SEPAT Pharmaceuticals, Ozo Pat Ifeanyi Oramah, gave reasons why hepatitis C virus could be eradicated in Nigeria by 2022.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV): the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver cancer.
Oramah told journalists that eradication of Hepatitis C virus infection could be achieved by health education campaign of the general public and by support from government and non-governmental organisations for the to provision of antiviral and immune-stimulatory drugs free of charge for those already infected.
Oramah’s comments followed the Federal Ministry of Health’s (FMoH) commencement of a sensitisation programme to expand awareness among the general population and ensuring that half of hepatitis C patients were aware of their infection status by 2020.
In addition, the ministry wants 50 per cent of the patients to receive treatment by 2020; 90 per cent cured by 2020 and for Nigeria to be totally free of hepatitis C by 2022.
According to a study titled, “Hepatitis C virus infection in Nigerians”, published in the Nigerian Medical Journal, “So far, the prevalence of hepatitis C. virus infection is increasing in Nigeria, ranging from 4.7-5 per cent in Ilorin, to 5.3-6.6 per cent in Enugu, to 11 per cent in Ibadan and 20 per cent in Benin. Children and adults are all at risk of being infected especially Sickle cell disease patients. Others include those who are exposed to the common risk factors like blood transfusion, haemodialyisis, recycling of syringes and needles, sexual promiscuity.”
Oramah said efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration towards eradicating the deadly hepatitis C disease in the country have started yielding fruits as Pharco Corporation, an Egypt based international pharmaceuticals company steps in to provide support for the nation’s health systems strengthening (HSS) through the generation of awareness and provision of potent medication for the elimination of the disease in Nigeria. He said Pharco, partnering with the government of Egypt, in a space of less than three years, has successfully cured more that 1.9 million hepatitis C patients in Egypt and the same feat is currently being performed in Cameroon, Cote d’ Ivoire and Sudan.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to mark the WHD 2019 campaign, WHO urged all countries and partners to promote the theme “Invest in eliminating hepatitis.”
Oramah said Pharco Corporation has harkened to the yearnings of Nigeria and keyed in to the government’s genuine efforts in eliminating hepatitis in Nigeria through its strategic Nigerian partner, SEPAT Pharmaceuticals Limited. Oramah, said: “Pharco Corporation is bringing into Nigeria its veritable experience, its success story across Africa in the elimination of the deadly disease. The company is eradicating hepatitis C in many African countries by a product that is completely made in Egypt, thus suitable and efficacious for Africans.”
As part of the measures already put in place towards ensuring that the 2022 date set aside for the elimination of hepatitis in Nigeria becomes realistic, Ozo Oramah disclosed that Pharco would soon commence a country wide screening exercise where over 15,000 rapid tests are conducted for early detection of antibodies and hepatitis. Furthermore, Oramah said that his company would also partner with the FMoH in monitoring, through its diagnostic partner company, to reduce and save cost, adding that the monitoring exercise would be followed up with the provision of technical training of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests handling and maintenance of its equipment.
Another key area, the international corporation would be supporting Nigeria is in the much needed engendering of awareness, where Ozo Oramah explained that the major targets are students in higher institutions, market women, artisans and the aged.
Oramah added: “In a compressive campaign, suiting international best practices, “the International Club of Hepatitis C powered by Pharco will be extended through the universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria spreading awareness brochures and through on- ground and social media campaigns.
“The vision of our partners, Pharco of Egypt, through the initiative and passionate drives of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Sherin Helmy – Africa Free of Hepatitis C 2025 Initiative- is to eliminate hepatitis C in Africa by 2025. With the laudable programmes and the commitment of the present government in Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health, we are convinced that with the right synergies and partnerships, the 2022 date set to eradicate the disease by Buhari’s administration is feasible. Pharco Corporation and SEPAT are committed to it and we will do all within our means towards attaining the goal.”
The hepatitis C virus is a blood borne virus: the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood. This may happen through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products, and sexual practices that lead to exposure to blood.
Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection.
A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.
WHO estimated that in 2016, approximately 399 000 people died from hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
There is currently no effective vaccine against hepatitis C; however, research in this area is ongoing.
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