Category Archives: Healthcare

The World’s First Malaria Vaccine to Be Rolled Out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018

Mosquito on human skin at sunset_0
Image credit: Shutterstock

Malaria is one of the world’s most deadly diseases even though it is highly preventable and treatable. Malaria causes approximately 881,000 deaths every year, with nine out of ten deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

Effective control and treatment of malaria has been very challenging and efforts have been made to reduce the burden of malaria in an integrated approach that combines preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS), with improved access to effective anti-malarial drugs.

However, malaria is a disease that stems from and causes poverty, and many at-risk populations live in extremely destitute, remote areas. Poor, rural families are the least likely to have access to these preventative measures that are fundamental to malaria control, and may live kilometres from the nearest healthcare facility. They are also less able to afford treatment once infection has occurred.

In addition to the human cost of malaria, the economic burden of the disease is vast. It is estimated that malaria costs African countries more than US$12 billion every year in direct losses, even though the disease could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. For Nigeria alone the direct loss to the economy is estimated at GBP530 million annually.

Up to 40% of African health budgets are spent on malaria each year, and on average, a malaria-stricken family loses a quarter of its income through loss of earnings and the cost of treating and preventing the disease. Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3% of economic growth per year in Africa.

There is a ray of hope in Africa as the world first malaria vaccine is to be rolled out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2018. This injectable vaccine known as “RTS,S or Mosquirix” was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will be offered for babies and children in high risk areas as part of real life trials as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In clinical trials it is proved only partially effective, and it needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but it is the first-regulator-approved vaccine against the mosquito- borne disease. The WHO, who is in process of assessing whether to add the shot to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, has said it firsts wants to see the results of on-the ground testing in a pilot programme.

“Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s African regional director said in a statement as the three pilot countries were announced.

“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”

Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria toll by 62 percent between 2000 and 2015. The WHO pilot programme will assess whether the Mosquirix’s protective effect in children aged 5 to 17 months can be replicated in real life. It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed and explore the vaccine’s potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease. 

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets and well-functioning immunization programmes. 

Each of the three countries will decide on the districts and regions to be included in the pilots, the WHO said, with high malaria areas getting priority since these are where experts expect to see most benefit from the use of the vaccine.  The vaccine was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WHO said in November it had secured full funding for the first phase of the RTS,S pilots, with 15 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and up to 27.5 million and 9.6 million respectively from the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID for the first four years of the programme.

This significant development will help to address the continuing challenges presented by malaria in Africa in the years ahead and hopefully bring an end to this deadly disease.

Sources:

The Hindu, April 25, 2017. 

Kokwaro G. (2009) Ongoing challenges in the management of malaria. Malaria Journal, 8(Suppl 1):S2 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-S1-S2.

Why it is Dangerous for a Nursing Mother to Take Codeine or Tramadol

I know a young woman who was so addicted to codeine. Even when she was pregnant she was always high on codeine. She carried her pregnancy without experiencing any complication and her baby was delivered with ease, and then her abuse of codeine increased. I don’t know how much of the drug got to the baby while in the womb but after birth it was obvious that the baby was getting this drug through breast milk. The baby hardly cried and was always asleep. This nursing mother couldn’t stop or slow down her intake of codeine so the baby had to be taken away from her.

A lot of young people abuse codeine and tramadol to get a euphoric high, low, slow or strong feeling. This has become a societal problem because the abuse of these drugs like other opiates has many adverse effects more especially on babies and young children.

Codeine is a moderately strong opiate drug that is used in pain relief and for the suppression of coughs. Tramadol is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain But strong or weak, these drugs are addictive with many symptoms of use in common with other opiates.

According to the New York Times, the United State Food and Drug Administration announced that any child younger than 12 should not take the opioid codeine and that those 18 and younger should not take tramadol, another painkiller, after certain types of surgery. In addition, nursing mothers should avoid both opioids because they pose dangers to breast-feeding babies.

The agency said, drug manufacturers will be required to update their package inserts to reflect the new contraindications, the strongest kind of warning, to alert doctors and parents that children can have trouble breathing or die after taking these drugs. Some over-the-counter cough or cold remedies contain codeine, so parents should read all labels to avoid accidentally giving it to their child.

Teenagers with certain conditions like severe lung disease, obesity or obstructive sleep apnea that can impair breathing may be at particular risk, the agency cautioned.

According to New York Times, these warnings were prompted by a recent review of rare but alarming reports of life-threatening side effects from the drugs. Between January 1969 and May 2015, the F.D.A. identified 24 deaths and 40 cases of serious breathing difficulties in children younger than 18 worldwide tied to drugs that contain codeine. Of the 24 deaths, 21 occurred in children under 12.

The use of tramadol was linked to three deaths and six cases of respiratory troubles in children under 18 between January 1969 and March 2016. All of the deaths occurred outside the United States and involved tramadol given in oral drops, a formulation not available in this country. One case in the United States involved a 6-year-old who became unresponsive after a third dose of tramadol and fully recovered after two doses of naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose.

The problem with both codeine and tramadol is that some people are “ultrarapid metabolizers” whose livers metabolize the drugs much too quickly, causing dangerously high levels of opioids to build up, said Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, the deputy director for regulatory programs at the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. No test can identify who might metabolize the drug too quickly, and that is why the agency issued blanket warnings for children by age.

Certain ethnic groups may be especially sensitive to the drugs. Up to 10 percent of whites, for instance, are fast metabolizers, compared with up to 4 percent of African-Americans and up to 2 percent of East Asians. And more than 10 percent of people of Puerto Rican and Middle Eastern descent may be fast metabolizers.

Any breast-feeding mother could also be an ultrarapid metabolizer and not know it, and unwittingly pass on high levels of opioids to her nursing baby through breast milk. Excessive sleepiness, limpness, breathing troubles or even death can result.

“Because we can’t easily determine which children or nursing mothers specifically are at greater risk of ultrarapid metabolism of codeine and tramadol, today we are requiring manufacturers of prescription codeine and tramadol products to make important labeling changes to protect those children who are at greater risk,” Dr. Throckmorton said.

Meet Ugandans Who Invented a Better Way to Diagnose Pneumonia

L-R Brian Turyabagye and Besufekad Shifferaw, both telecom engineering graduates who invented the Smart Jacket-mama’s Hope to diagnose Pnuemonia, April 5, 2017. (H. Althumani/VOA)

Three university engineering graduates in Uganda are taking on one of the leading killers of young children in Africa – pneumonia. They say the prototype of their invention, a “smart jacket” they have named Mama’s Hope, can diagnose the illness faster and more accurately than the current medical protocol.

Four-month-old Nakato Christine writhes on a hospital bed, breathing fast. On the other end of the bed is her twin sister, in the same condition. Nakato coughs as Senior Nurse Kyebatala Loy adjusts the nasal gastric tube.

“They have been put on oxygen because they have difficulty in breathing and the feeding is also difficult because of their fast breathing,” Kyebatala said.

Since January, 352 babies have been admitted with pneumonia to pediatric ward 16 at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala.

Pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death for children under five years of age in Africa and south Asia, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, pneumonia killed nearly a million children worldwide.

A key problem is the challenge involved in diagnosing the disease. The sooner the sick children start receiving antibiotics, the better their chance of survival. But health workers armed with stethoscopes and thermometers can miss the infection in its early stage. Dr. Flavia Mpanga of the U.N. Children’s Fund in Kampala says other methods, like the respiratory timer, can lead to misdiagnosis.

“If you see the respiratory timer, it’s got a ticking mechanism that confuses the community health workers. When they are taking the breathe rates, they confuse the ticking sound of the respiratory timer with the breathe rates and every child is almost diagnosed with pneumonia,” said Dr. Mpanga.

She says over-diagnosis means some children are taking antibiotics they don’t need, which is also a public health problem.

A trio of recent university engineering graduates in Uganda think they have an answer. They have been working with the Mulago School of Public Health to test a prototype of their invention, the smart jacket, called Mama’s Hope.

Two of the inventors, 26-year-old Beseufekad Shifferaw and 25-year-old Brian Turyabagye, gave VOA a demonstration.

“Ahh so…[zipper sound]… the jacket…is placed on the child…first, this goes around the child and then the falcon fastening is placed, and then the flaps are placed…[fade out]”

“This jacket will simply measure the vital signs of pneumonia. That is the breathing rate, the state of the lungs and the temperature,” said Turyabagye. “Now those signs are transmitted to our unit here, through which a health worker can read off the readings, which include cough, chest pains, nausea or difficulty in breathing. With those additional signs and symptoms, they are coupled with the result that has been measured by the jacket and it gives a more accurate diagnosis result.”

For now, it is just a prototype. But the inventors say their tests have shown that the smart jacket can diagnose pneumonia three times faster than traditional exams.

UNICEF has put the team in touch with its office in Copenhagen in charge of innovations to help them advance in the pre-trial stage. Dr. Mpanga sees potential.

“My only hope is that this jacket can reach a commercial value and be regulatory-body approved so that it can help the whole world,” said Dr. Mpanga.

Dr. Mpanga says taking the guess work out of pneumonia diagnosis could save countless lives in the developing world.

Source: VOA

Nigerian authority is saying the life of a Nigerian doesn’t matter as much as that of a European

The soft drinks giant said the claims were inaccurate and unsupported by science Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Judgement

Recently a court in Nigeria ruled that high levels of benzoic acid and additives in Coca-Cola’s soft drinks could pose a health risk to consumers when mixed with ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C.

The ruling was the result of a nine-year-long court battle initiated by Nigerian businessman Fijabi Adebo. Mr Adebo’s drinks company attempted to export the drinks to the UK in 2007. However, the beverages were confiscated by UK customs and after being tested by UK health authorities they were deemed unsafe for human consumption and destroyed.

Mr Adebo then sued NBC, which had sold him the products. Lawyers of Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) argued that the products were not intended for export. but the defense was rejected by the Lagos High Court judge. “We shouldn’t have a product that is considered substandard in Europe.”

“Soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of colour or creed,” the judge said.

The judge also gave a fine equivalent to $6,350 (£5,115) to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for failing to ensure health standards

“It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company,” the judge said.

“NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption products […] which become poisonous in the presence of ascorbic acid,” he added.


The
excuse and deceit

Asked about drinks sold in the UK, Coca-Cola said: “Everywhere in the world, we review and evolve our recipes to meet the local market’s needs and tastes. All of the drinks that are sold in Great Britain are manufactured locally. Our priority is always to provide great tasting, affordable drinks with the same high level of quality regardless of where they are sold.”

“All our products are safe and strictly adhere to regulations in the countries where they are sold while complying with our company’s stringent global safety and quality standards,” a spokesperson for Coca-Cola told the Independent.

NBC said in a statement, “These two ingredients are also used in combination in some of these products within levels which may differ from one country to another as approved by the respective national food and drug regulators and in line with the range prescribed by CODEX,” the joint intergovernmental body responsible for harmonizing international food standards.

“The permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.” the statement reads.


Benzene
in soft drinks

Benzene in soft drinks is of potential concern due to the carcinogenic nature of the benzene molecule. The benzene forms from decarboxylation of the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions (iron and copper) that act as catalysts, especially under heat and light.

Benzoic acid is often added to drinks as a preservative in the form of its salts sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, or calcium benzoate. Citric acid is not thought to induce significant benzene production in combination with benzoic acid, but some evidence suggests that in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and benzoic acid, citric acid may accelerate the production of benzene.


The
truth

Coca cola is a profit driven company. They are out there for profit and will readily take advantage of any regulatory flaw to maximise profit. Most poor and third world countries are in the tropics and have little or no representation in global bodies like CODEX, therefore have little or no influence on the regulations or policies that comes out of these organisations. Like in cases of international trade laws, the developed world and multinationals (mostly owed by the developed world) influence international regulations to their own advantage with the developing world always at the disadvantaged position.
Instead of worrying about a healthy way to preserve their soft drinks in tropical climate, the developed world and multinationals had made certain that the maximum amounts of benzoic acid that international regulations allow them to use is high enough to guarantee a long shelf life for their products and a maximum profit in tropical countries even if it is not healthy. The long term health or wellbeing of people living in this zone is not the priority of multinationals. Their priority is profit making and expansion.

The UK customs and UK health authorities after carrying out a test declared that Fanta and Sprite made in Nigeria by NBC are unsafe for human consumption but Nigerian Ministry of health and NAFDAC, the body in charge of food and drink regulation in Nigeria have come out to say it is safe for Nigerians to consumes these drinks. In other words, the Nigerian authority is saying the life of a Nigerian doesn’t matter as much as the life of a European.

Like the Lagos High Court judge said, Nigerians shouldn’t consume a product that is considered substandard in Europe. If Fanta and Sprite made in the UK is fit for human consumption, then Fanta and Sprite made in Nigeria ought to be fit for human consumption too.

The decision made by NBC and NAFDAC that Nigerians should consume a quantity of benzoic acid considered to be unhealthy for human consumption by the British government  because of their geographical locations is pathetic and lack common sense..

If food and beverage in the tropical countries requires higher preservative levels unlike in temperate countries, it still has to be healthy for human consumption. They didn’t consider the fact that Nigeria is a country of abundant heat and light which aids the conversion of benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to benzene.

The federal and state government have failed in protecting the citizens of Nigeria. They have decided to stand with NBC against the citizens, the court and the truth. Both NBC and NAFDAC are appealing against the ruling of the court. This is a shame! This is a shame!

This Nigerian American Dreams of Finding Cures for Infectious Diseases in Africa

Nigerian-born Chidiebere Akusobi has notched many impressive academic achievements in his short life.
The 25-year old studied ecology and evolutionary biology as an undergraduate at Yale, then earned his master’s in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge. Now he’s three years into a joint PhD/MD program researching cures for infectious diseases at Harvard and MIT.

Akusobi, who had moved from Nigeria to the impoverished New York City neighborhood of the South Bronx when he was two years old, was accepted into the rigorous New York City Prep for Prep program.

The program is an educational boot camp that selects roughly 225 promising students a year from the poorest New York City neighborhoods and grooms them for scholarships to attend the city’s top private schools.

For 14 months, students were assigned six hours of homework a day — on top of their normal workload — and they were expected to read one book a week.
“I remember July 4th, 2001, everyone was outside and there were fireworks. I was inside and my mom was keeping me awake as I read,” he said.
But Akusobi was determined to complete the program.
“I was taught that [education] was our shot of the American Dream,” he said.

When he was done, he had won a full academic scholarship to Horace Mann, one of the most prestigious prep schools in New York City.
Once Akusobi enrolled, finding his place in the school’s rarefied halls became his next big challenge.
Related: My American Dream – Offering legal help to other immigrants
He was only 12 and the stark contrast between he and the other mostly white, wealthy students was striking.

At the time, Akusobi’s father was working three jobs while also studying to become a nurse. His mother, who was also pursuing a nursing degree, worked as a home health aide.

Akusobi took full advantage of what Horace Mann had to offer. He became head of the dance team and even wrote and acted in a one act show.
“I just took advantage of all the opportunities that I could and did well enough that I got into Yale,” he said.
But his true passion was medicine.

Even though he had left Nigeria at a young age, Akusobi remained close to family members who still live in the country. “When I go to Nigeria there’s a sense of being home because that’s where my folks grew up,” he said.
But the attachments have come with heartache each time he receives news of a family member or friend who has passed away from an infectious disease, like malaria or HIV.

“It’s shocking the toll that infectious diseases have. I could work on fixing that. There’s real impact that has to be made,” he said.

And Akusobi is getting closer to that goal. Recently, he was granted one of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which will pay up to $90,000 for his joint PhD/MD program at Harvard and MIT.

Besides his research at Harvard/MIT, Akusobi has advocated on a variety of issues, especially those dealing with racial equality and diversity in medicine.
He helped organize the WhiteCoat4BlackLives movement on Harvard Medical School’s campus to commemorate Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men whose deaths at the hands of the police spurred a national movement against police brutality and highlighted the issue of racism in America.

He has also taken a leadership role at the Student National Medical Association, which seeks to help get more minorities like Akusobi involved in the practice of medicine.

“From what I’ve seen there are so many students that have potential,” he said. “But there is systemic injustice and institutionalized racism that doesn’t allow people to get to where they need to be.”

While he believes in the American Dream, Akusobi says he realizes it isn’t a reality for many people, especially those who didn’t get the opportunities he did.
“The American Dream for a lot of people is a fantasy. I have experienced sub par schools with sub par teachers,” he said. 

“An elementary school student attending those schools and living in a neighborhood without quality food or after-school opportunities and surrounded by people in that situation. For a kid in that situation it’s easy to see how they might feel like the American Dream doesn’t exist.”

Source: CNN

IBM is building an app to help a Kenyan city clear up garbages

A garbage collection lorry in Nairobi. A tech firm has designed a solid waste management system to help solve Nairobi’s mounting garbage menace. FILE PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A tech firm has designed a solid waste management system to help solve Nairobi’s mounting garbage menace.
The IBM Research Africa project could be launched in a year, as the city steps up garbage collection programme that costs an estimated Sh1 billion per month.

IBM researchers will collect data on the five million residents in Nairobi County, map garbage collection routes and connect them to a mobile application monitored from a main office server.

“This signifies how IBM as an American company is investing big in Africa with a focus on enterprise and job creation. The sectors we are assisting in the county are transport, technology and agriculture,” said IBM Research Africa Vice-President Dr Kamal Bhattacharya.

“When you drive around in the garbage collecting lorry with a mobile phone that has our application, it will automatically monitor and tell traffic and driver behaviour. Through the system, we detect speed bumps and potholes. We also check fuel usage,” said IBM researcher Aisha Walcott Bryant while demonstrating how the app works at the firm’s lab in the Catholic University of Eastern Africa last week.

The data collected by the laboratory could then be used by Nairobi County government to plan an efficient garbage collection schedule.

“We partnered with Nairobi County on (developing) the system. Currently we are monitoring 10 of the garbage collection vehicles with our smart devices. On the first attempt, we were able to tell when all the vehicles were in the garage,” said Ms Bryant.

Congested city

She said the system checks the dump sites in the county to see if they are full and/or not treated. It also captures how long a vehicle takes in traffic and the time the vehicles take to collect garbage.

Before embarking on the project, IBM conducted a research that revealed Nairobi as one of the most congested cities in the world. This is partly the reason why garbage collection has been a headache to the county.

Despite several initiatives, the county government has been unable to effectively deal with mounting garbage.

The population of the 32,000-square-kilometre city has grown from 325,000 fifty years ago to 3.1 million as per the 2009 census. The county government data shows that over five million people live in Nairobi currently.

Nairobi County Executive Committee Member for Environment Evans Ondieki, who is playing a key role in the roll-out of the new garbage collection plan, says the initiative will give the city a new, gleaming face.

“Our plan is to attract foreign direct investments through a clean, well organised city that knows how to manage solid waste and has proper planning,” said Mr Ondieki.

An attempt to organise the city’s garbage collection in 2010 through a Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) funding failed.

Legal framework

Jica, through the county survey, cited insufficient funds for the city’s failure to implement the clean-up plan. The agency also stressed the need for a legal framework for the public-private partnership investments.

Jica outlined what must be done to make Nairobi “as neat and functional as other global capitals”.

Source: Daily Nation

​The struggle of Nigeria’s foremost anti-sickle cell disease medication

A name synonymous with sickle cell anaemia in Nigeria

Sickle-cell anaemia is particularly common in western Africa and people of western African ancestry. Sickle-cell anaemia is also common in people from Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, and India, or people whose ancestors came from these regions. it is a genetic disorder which in particular shows its clinical manifestations in the black race and Nigeria been the most populous black nation on the word has the highest incidence of this disorder. Before the first known case of Sickle-cell anaemia in the advance world in 1910, Nigerian were already battling with this disease. If fact archaeological research in Nigeria has unearthed 700 years old human bones showing evidence of sickle cell infarcts. So you are in order if you say Sickle-cell anaemia is a Nigerian problem.
After man years of this disease in Nigeria traditional healers and medicine men were able to produce medicine that minimize painful episodes which are the most common complication of Sickle-cell anaemia. One of the medicine was later developed by a team of 8 Nigerian scientists and researchers at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Abuja, Nigeria and Nigeria’s foremost anti-sickle cell disease medication – NIPRISAN™, was born. A patent for the formulation was filed on the 21st of January 1997 with the Office of the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, United States of America. The patent was approved in September 1998. 

NIPRISAN, as claimed in the patent is a herbal mixture extract, formulated from parts of four different indigenous plants (Piper guineenses seeds, Pterocarpus osun stem, Eugenia caryophylum fruit and Sorghum bicolor leaves) and an inorganic material mixed at specific ratios which has been shown to be safe and effective in the management of sickle cell disease during a phase 1 and subsequent Phase 2 clinical trials.

The patent document lists eight individuals as the inventors and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development as the assignee.  NIPRD had earlier licensed the product to Xechem PLC under the chairmanship of Dr. Ramesh Pandey and it was then sold under the tradename, NICOSAN™ in United States of America and in Nigeria. The product successfully got an orphan drug designation from both USFDA and EUFDA under the management of Xechem Plc.

In 2007, despite growing local and international demands for the Nigerian product, the parent company in America went bankrupt and Xechem Pharma Nigeria Ltd gradually was brought to a halt by crippling debts. With these developments and the failure of Xechem Pharma Nigeria Ltd to continue with drug production, the drug became scarce despite the huge local and international demand. NIPRD decided to implement the clause in the NIPRD-Xechem Agreement which stipulates that should Xechem change ownership or be insolvent, NIPRD reserves the right to withdraw the license.

The decision was challenged in a U.S. court and, after a grueling and expensive court case, NIPRD won the court case and withdrew the license from Xechem. Efforts to license the commercialisation to another firm has not been successful as all previous attempts have been hindered by court cases initiated by Xechem creditors and shareholders.

Efforts are underway by some actors to launch a generic brand once the patent expires as the tradename – Nicosan™ is held by Dr. Ramesh Pandey and not Xechem Plc. There are multiple opinions on the expiry date of the Niprisan patent ranging from:

  • 1st September, 2015 (17 years from approval)
  • 25th January, 2016 (20 years from first filing in Nigeria)
  • 21st January 2017 (20 years from USA first filing)

The rule is that patent expiry date is the latter of 17 years from USA approval date or 20 years from the date of filing in USA or Internationally provided it qualifies under the 35 U.S.C 120, 121 or 365 conditions. In the event of patent expiry, the court cases would lose their potency and any player with sufficient technical and marketing capacity can produce and market the product under a new or existing brand.

The Nigerian Pharmacist Who Invented Alabukun Powder Almost 100 Years Ago

Jacob Sogboyega Odulate aka Blessed Jacob was a Nigerian pharmacist, inventor and entrepreneur. He invented Alabukun powder

ALABUKUN is an indigenous brand that has persisted for almost 100 years in the most unlikely sector of trade for the average Nigerian: pharmacy. Alabukun powder a very popular drug in Nigeria, the world’s most populous nation and in other West African nations. Almost 100 years after, the brand remains one of the most resilient in Africa. Alabukun gained acceptance and wide spread use without any considerable adverts. It is cheap, easily recognizable and available in most chemist shop in Nigeria. 

This popular drug is an invention of Jacob Sogboyega Odulate aka Blessed Jacob (1884-1962), a Nigerian pharmacist, inventor and entrepreneur in 1918. He was originally from Ikorodu in Lagos State but later moved to the neighbouring Ogun State.  He was just 14 when he left Ikorodu, he trekked for three months before reaching Abeokuta to establish himself.

The 1910s was a period of British colonialism. In spite of all the obstacles the English imperialists placed before the ‘natives’, Blessed Jacob was able to create this brand from what served as his consulting room and laboratory in Abeokuta, Ogun State, south-western Nigeria. Without any government support and facing immense obstacles from the British colonialists who controlled all the economy, Blessed Jacob managed to create a brand that has lasted a century.

Blessed Jacob also produced other brands like Alabukun mentholine, other preparations and an annual journal called Alabukun Almanac which was widely distributed in Abeokuta and eventually all over Nigeria between the 1920s and 1950s.

Alabukun Powder contains acetylsalicylic acid and caffeine as its active ingredients. A packet contains 760 mg of acetylsalicylic acid and 60 mg of caffeine making a total of 820 mg. Although many Nigerians use it as an over-the-counter drug primarily as a mild analgesic for headache and other simple infirmities, the application of Alabukun powder is actually more diverse than that. It is used for a host of ailment and these include migraine, prevention of blood clots, myocardial infarction, transluminal angioplasty, ischaemic attacks and stroke. It can also be used in the treatment, management or prevention of these conditions: toothache, sore throat and Neuralgias.

The pharmacodynamics of Alabukun powder show that it functions by preventing the production of platelet aggregation and inhibits adenosine in the body. These functions reduce pain and allows the user to breath better by stimulating the brain and the heart.

Like every drug, Alabukun powder must not be used for any of these conditions without recommendations from a medical doctor. And like order drugs too Alabukun can have side effects. The possible side effects that can result from taking Alabukun are swelling due to fluid accumulation, asthma, vomiting, nausea and vertigo.

Here Are Five African Inventions Which May Take Off in 2017

An electricity grid for the whole village

Problem: A total of 1.3 billion people worldwide currently don’t have electricity, according to Yale Environment 360. Getting people in rural areas onto the national grid is proving too difficult and traditional solar panels generate meagre amounts of energy.

Solution: Steamaco makes solar and battery micro-grids which can work for a whole village. They are small electricity generation and distribution systems that operate independently of larger grids.

How it works: Micro-grids are nothing new. The new part is that Steamaco’s technology automates the regulation of electricity.

So, if the system detects there will be a surge in demand for electricity, for example on a Saturday night when people want to start playing music for a party, or they see a dip in supply, like when the sun has gone down and so the grid is not collecting solar energy, then the grid automatically stops electricity for people it won’t affect too badly.

The system sends an automatic text to all customers on the grid saying that the electricity in houses it about to be cut off so that the hospital can keep on going.

Who is talking about this? In June the Kenyan company won awards from the clean energy charity Ashden, reports the Guardian.

A jacket that detects pneumonia

Problem: Pneumonia kills 27,000 Ugandan children under the age of five every year. Most of these cases are due to pneumonia being misdiagnosed as malaria.

Solution: Ugandan engineer Brian Turyabagye has designed a biomedical “smart jacket” to quickly and accurately diagnose pneumonia. The Mamaope jacket measures a sick child’s temperature and breathing rate. It can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor and eliminates most possibility for human error.

How it works: A modified stethoscope is put in a vest. It is linked to a mobile phone app which records the audio of the patient’s chest. Analysis of that audio can detect lung crackles, and can lead to preliminary diagnoses.


Who is talking about this:
It is shortlisted for the 2017 Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize.

A tablet that monitors your heart

Problem: It is difficult for people in rural areas to travel to the cities to see heart specialists. There are just 50 cardiologists in Cameroon, which has a population of 20 million people.

Solution: Arthur Zang invented the Cardio Pad – a handheld medical computer tablet which healthcare workers in rural areas use to send the results of cardiac tests to specialists via a mobile phone connection.

How it works: Cardiopads are distributed to hospitals and clinics in Cameroon free of charge, and patients pay $29 (£20) yearly subscriptions. It takes a digitised reading of the patient’s heart function. In a few seconds the results of a heart test are sent to a specialist clinic in the capital.

Who is talking about this: It won the Royal Society award for African engineering in 2016 and the Rolex award for Entreprise in 2014. But Mr Zang told BBC Africa that these things take time to develop and it only got approval from the Cameroon authorities in October 2016. So, it is more likely that people will actually see it in their clinics in 2017.

An app for hair inspiration

Problem: A lack of accurate information about how to achieve certain hairstyles and where to find a high quality stylist.
Solution: Three software engineers – Priscilla Hazel, Esther Olatunde and Cassandra Sarfo – invented Tress, an app to share ideas about hairstyles.

How it works: It is described by Okay Africa as a kind of pinterest or Instagram for hair. Once you have downloaded the app, you can follow other people who are sharing their hairstyle. You can search specifically by place, price range and the type of hairstyle your want, from relaxed hair to cornrow: You can then scroll until your heart’s content through people who have uploaded pictures of themselves with that style, tell them how much you like their style, ask how long it took, and even arrange to meet up with someone to style your hair.

Who is talking about this: The three software engineers behind this are graduates of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, Ghana.They were then selected for the Y Combinator eight-week fellowship programme for start-up companies.

Y Combinator is prestigious – Business news website Fast company called it “the world’s most powerful start-up incubator”. In other words, the school is thought of as really good at finding the next Mark Zuckerberg.

A currency for paying online workers

Problem: There are online workers, specifically web developers, in Africa that people outside the continent would like to employ but it is difficult or prohibitively expensive to get their wages to them. Some don’t have passports, and so don’t have bank accounts either.

Solution: Bitpesa uses Bitcoin to significantly lower the time and cost of remittances and and business payments to and from sub-Saharan Africa.

How it works: Bitpesa uses the crypto-currency bitcoin as a medium to transfer cash across borders. Bitcoin is a system of digitally created and traded tokens and people keep their tokens in online wallets.It then takes the Bitcoin tokens and exchanges them into money in mobile money wallets – a popular way of paying for things in places like Kenya and Tanzania.BitPesa is already used to pay online workers – a company called Tunga is using it as a way of getting wages from clients abroad to web developers in Uganda.

Who is talking about it: It won an award for the best apps across Africa in November.

Source: BBC

Kenyan Teenager Develops Human Organ-matching Mobile App

In 2014, Kenyan teenager Caroline Wambui lost her uncle after he suffered kidney failure.
Nobody in her family was a match for a donation, and Kenya, like so many other African countries, lacks an official countrywide organ donor program. Organ donation has in fact become somewhat of a taboo.

In the meantime, individual’s like Caroline’s uncle die unnecessarily, or are forced to turn to an unregulated and unsafe market that has sprung up around organ donation in reaction to the country’s health inefficiencies.

One area in which Kenya is developing, however, is in terms of ICT, and this is gradually creeping into schools. The government has launched a laptops for schools policy, while numerous multinationals and local startups are developing solutions whereby the country’s education sector is improved by technology.

Caroline, fresh from losing her uncle, was a beneficiary of this movement. So much so, that within two years of his death she has rolled out her own solution to the problem he faced – Life Pocket.

A mobile app, Life Pocket connects patients with donors, doctors and hospitals. All are able to register on the platform, with the aim of connecting patients and donors in a way that has previously proven impossible. It is currently being piloted by a number of hospitals across the country, ahead of a nationwide rollout in October.
Caroline said Life Pocket also aims to raise awareness about donating organs and stop it from being a taboo subject. She said,

The app has a feature that contains all organs, where one can learn more about donating and whether or not it would have any negative effect on the health of the donor.

It also has features like a forum, where different donors and recipients can interact with doctors in varied fields of health expertise. Organ recipients can also share their journey milestones before and after donation.

She said she cannot wait to see the app fully rolled out, and hopes it prevents others having to experience what her uncle went through.

Yet Life Pocket seemed a long way from being developed until Damaris Mutati, Caroline’s teacher at Embakasi Girls Secondary School, began to introduce technology to her students, something she feels is vital to the development of young people on the continent.

As Demaris points out,

Technology is important to the lives of young Africans and being in a developing continent it needs more job creators than seekers.

This can only be achieved if schools integrate more ICT skills into their curriculum as well as encourage young people to be developers of their own ideas, and consumers of their own technological products. This then would create more employment opportunities for the young people across the continent.

This has certainly proven the case with Caroline, who also roped in a number of friends to help her develop Life Pocket. So passionate was Mutati on the subject, meanwhile, that she participated in two programs run by multinational tech firm Intel in Kenya. The programs – Teach, and She Will Connect – were aimed at helping teachers pass on IT knowledge to children.

Intel’s involvement went deeper, however, with staff volunteering to teach a coding workshop at Caroline’s school, where the pupils were introduced to Intel XDK. Intel XDK is a unified development environment that enables users to design, create, test and deploy HTML5 apps.

This proved the inspiration for Caroline to build her app, with the schoolgirl saying the input of the company was critical.

Many more young girls can successfully follow in my footsteps if they are exposed to programming.

This is something that Intel agrees with. According to Rosalind Hudnell, vice president of worldwide corporate affairs and president of the Intel Foundation, the company’s She Will Connect program is dedicated to closing the internet gender gap that exists in many developing countries.

The initiative has resonated with people because it empowers young women and opens up opportunity to acquire or improve digital literacy skills and expand their understanding and use of technology.

Through this, women can then more easily connect to resources that enable them to receive a better education, enhance their political participation, have a stronger voice in their communities, and increase their income by connecting to new economic opportunities.

She said Mutati, who went through the program and decided to integrate technology and coding into her classroom, was a perfect example of this.

Hudnell said,

Caroline’s story is just one of many. The results we’ve seen just in the last two years have been amazing.

As technology continues to advance, it will only become more important to make sure that Africa’s innovators have access to the latest tools and resources. In the coming years, this will be our focus – to ensure that people like Damaris and Caroline are empowered to reach their full potential through technology.

Source: The Next Web