By Chioma Obinna
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, has called for caution against the use of Ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 even as it declared COVID-19 vaccines are safe for use in Nigeria.
The pharmacists decried that even with the availability of funds and infrastructure Nigeria cannot produce vaccines due to the absence of an effective Pharmacy law in the country.
Addressing a press conference on the Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines in Lagos, the President of the Society, Pharm Sam Ohuabunwa appealed to health professionals and Nigerians at large to exercise caution in the use of the drug for non approved indications such as COVID-19 as every drug is a poison and can cause under-reported side effect or adverse events especially when used for new indications with the different dosing regimen.
Represented by the National Publicity Secretary, Pharm. Ijeoma Okey-Ewurum he said: “Ivermectin is a drug that has been around but what we are worried about is the protocol that is being proposed for even prophylaxis in COVID-19. In fact, the one that is being forward as curative is beyond what human beings can tolerate as of today. That is why Pharmacists have continued to scream it at every point because we are the custodians of drugs and we understand the chemistry of these drugs. We know what they do.
“We are also looking at the long time effect because as of today, there is no finished line. It is being taunted because nothing has been established.
“Some trials showed that the recovery period was shorter but it has not been reproduced here and no extensive study has been done, also COVID-19 is a viral infection which if you treat it, it takes two weeks if you don’t treat it, it takes a fortnight.
“If the immune system is working, people can recover on their own. Until we do our study in our environment we do not support people going to take ivermectin.
“Right now, it is being recommended that people should take every week or two weeks, no agreement as at today.
“The first instance is that this medication is proposed for a very short time therapy. You take it for two days in a period of a year or two years. This is now what people take every week or two.
“That is why Pharmacists are insisting that we must have empirical evidence before we can say yes to this.”
Speaking further, he declared that the PSN can authoritatively confirm that vaccines are safe.
“With our avowed responsibility to diligently nest medication safety of Nigerians, we make bold to say that the vaccines are safe and should be accepted when they become available to us.
“Vaccination has remained a veritable tool for disease prevention, control and possible elimination. For example, in Nigeria, in August 2020 eradicated polio through effective vaccination. We should be proud that some Nigerians are involved in the development of the vaccines to save humanity from this dreaded disease.”
He pointed out that vaccination should be seen as public health good and should be delivered to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Noting that the place of pharmacists who are the custodian of drugs was fundamental, he said participation of pharmacists must be secured to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccinations and generation of data for much needed local vaccine research.
He called for the filling up of funding gap in vaccine capacity building, enforcement of COVID-19 protocols even as vaccinations begins, strengthening the health system and infrastructure and improved budget allocation, as well as better management of COVID-19 palliatives in all states as well as considering community pharmacies as vaccination centres to reach a larger number of Nigerians within the shortest period of time.
He also pointed out that the COVID-19 experience which led countries including China to ban the exportation of essential medicines should provoke the country to a resolution to make Nigeria a hub for active pharmaceutical ingredients and the revamping of abandoned vaccine plants.
“COVID-19 remains an emerging infectious disease. We must arise to make sure that another pandemic does not take us unawares. A multi-sectoral approach should be key to mobilising the stakeholders towards sustainable solutions that will put Nigeria on the path of medicines security, economic recovery and development.”
Speaking on Vaccine production, he said Nigeria cannot produce vaccine currently due to the absence of a Pharmacy Law.
Ohuabunwa said Nigeria cannot do much about vaccine protocol until the pharmacy bill is signed into law. He said the Bill will enable NAFDAC to do the due diligence adding that. Most drugs produced in the country cannot ship abroad due to the absence of pharmacy law.
Corroborating his views, the National Secretary, Pharm. Olugbenga Falabi explained that the last assembly actually passed the Bill but it failed to receive the President’s assent, adding that the Bill has been represented all over again.
“We plead to Nigerians and the members of the National Assembly to see the need to do their work all over again. We also hope the Bill will receive the President’s assent before his tenure elapsed.”
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