November 21, 2019

Making Medicine

Many factors contribute toward a conducive environment in which the pharmaceutical industry will invest in a country or partner with community members,” says GlaxoSmithKline in its April

2011 Global Public Policy Issues. “Key amongst these factors are appropriate economic, scientific and market conditions. A robust legal framework is also important. Businesses will migrate naturally to where these conditions exist and are sustainable.”

Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals seem to have left West Africa in agreement with GlaxoSmithKline, thus leaving medical services in the lurch. Counterfeit drugs are now the norm, averaging more than 30% of the medicines on sale. Coupled with self-medication, and high incidences of drug resistance, poor people are seeking alternatives to orthodox medicines, many of which border on the fantastic.

Claims to having found cures for ailments in West Africa can be categorised into three: the spiritual claims, the herbal and the pseudo-scientific. A massive industry has emerged against the grain of established medical and pharmaceutical sciences, claiming cures that orthodox medicine is either unable to or national medical estab-lishments are ill-equipped to handle.

This edition of our newsletter examines the various ‘advances’ being made in the search for alternative cures and treatments. In Benin Republic, witchcraft and sorcery have received official state recognition and play significant roles in the response to disease. Traditional bonesetters in Nigeria have a feast as only three orthopae-dic hospitals are saddled with the task of treating many fracture patients from ever-growing vehicular accidents. The new approaches being adopted by Pentecostal churches in the face of infertility and terminal diseases like cancer are forcing mainline churches to change their styles. What will mainline medicine do?

The cost of and access to medicines have proved to be major challenges, especially in respect of the search for alternatives to antiretroviral drugs used in the management of HIV and AIDS. On the average, the monthly cost of treating HIV infections with proprietary antiretroviral drugs exceeds the monthly minimum wage. Local production is therefore not only a recommended next step but such arrangements must allow for production of cheap, generic versions as well, as has happened in Brazil. From Nigeria, we run an interview with the CEO of the government’s pharmaceutical research institute, revealing that the government is resuming production of Niprisan, a locally discovered drug for managing sickle cell disease. This step contains every ingredient of stardom on any scale of what is desir-able: local research, solving a local problem, local production, and feeding a local market.
–Odoh Diego Okenyodo

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