There is hope for sickle cell anaemia patients in Nigeria following an agreement to start commercial production of a home grown drug for the disease.
The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) signed the agreement with a Nigerian pharmaceutical company, May and Baker, to produce the drug called Niprisan.
A few weeks ago, the Federal Executive Council gave approval to the agency and the pharmaceutical company to scale up production and marketing of the anti-sickle cell formula discovered by NIPRD researchers several years ago.
This is aimed at reducing the burden of the disease in Africa and other parts of the world where the disease is common.
Sickle cell anaemia is a common problem particularly among Africans, South-east Asians and Latin Americans.
A press statement made available to the media on Thursday said the agreement was signed in Abuja by Managing Director of May & Baker Nigeria, Nnamdi Okafor, and the Acting Director-General of NIPRD, Olabayo Kunle.
This was done in the presence of the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole.
The minister said the commercialisation of Niprisan herbal product has come a long way to serve as a model for the production and development of regulatory guidelines for the assessment and registration of phytomedicines in Nigeria.
He noted that the project was the first herbal medicinal product in Nigeria to go through the full process of clinical studies starting from phase one to the end. He said it should be marketed to all Chief Medical Directors / Medical Directors for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia.
Mr Adewole also called the establishment of May and Baker laboratory in NIPRD as the first collaborative effort of the Federal Ministry of Health through NIPRD and May & Baker.
This, he said, would encourage the production of more drugs for the treatment of other ailments and further strengthen the collaboration between the two organisations for the overall benefit of Nigerians.
Speaking on the agreement, Mr Okafor said May and Baker took on the task of producing Niprisan so as to provide succour to many homes who have been weighed down by the agony of sickle cell anaemia.
“We expect this product to be a commercial success and a leading product of our company as we intend to give it all the attention required.
“With its commercial production, May & Baker will not only have added to her large basket of successful quality medicines but would set the blaze in encouraging local research into various medicines,” he said.
The commercialisation of the drug is expected to substantially relieve the sickle cell disease burden which is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people in the country yearly and has brought agony to many families.
Niprisan is one of the few successful formulas for treatment of sickle cell anaemia.