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Ministry Of Health Lies Exposed As Nigeria Import Anti-Snake Venom

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Transparency and honesty are words long expunged from lexicon of government operations in Nigeria. After days of vociferous denial of the scarcity of Anti-Snake Venom (ASV) by the ministry of health and affiliate agencies which have resulted in the death over 200 Nigerians, the ASV drugs eventually arrived the country over the weekend.

EchiTAB G for the treatment of bites from carpet vipers, and EchiTAB Plus for venom from carpet viper, Puff Adder and Black Cobra. The last tranche of the drugs supplied in August were used up in September.

EchiTAB G is produced by Micropharm Ltd, United Kingdom, while EchiTAB Plus is produced at Instituto Clodomiro Picado, University of Costa Rica.

Against the cacophony of lies by the ministry of health that the drugs are available in the country, Nandul Durfa, Managing Director, EchiTAB Study Group (ESG), representatives of the two foreign outfits manufacturing the drug in Nigeria, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday that the ASV crisis was over.

“We received 3,000 ASV vials from Costa Rica and 2,000 vials from the United Kingdom at the weekend; the acute shortage that culminated into massive deaths was unfortunate, but it is now over,’’ Mr. Durfa said.

Mr. Durfa, who had attributed the acute scarcity to “late placement of order by ESG”, said 10,000 additional ASV vials would soon be received to stabilise supply and guard against future ASV crisis.

According to him, the ultimate target is to domesticate the production of the drug. “In 2006, we submitted a proposal of N2 billion to facilitate local production of ASV which was approved by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, but nothing came out of it.

“Currently, we take the live snakes to Liverpool School of Tropical Hygiene in the UK, where the venom is removed and taken to the centres to produce the ASV. “The two companies have agreed to transfer the ASV production technology to Nigeria; we should take full advantage of that kindness.

“Following the massive effect of the recent scarcity, we resumed fresh discussions with the government toward domesticating its production. We have also contacted stakeholders and philanthropists to collaborate on a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement to that,’’ he said.

Mr. Durfa challenged Nigerians to take the local production of ASV seriously because those killed by snake bites were the productive group – farmers, cattle grazers and miners – who were crucial to economic growth.

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Akin Akingbala is an international journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Aside being happily married, he has interests in music, sports and loves traveling.

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