With close to one million babies lost annually to pre-mature birth in Nigeria due to non-availability of relevant medication, relief appears to be in sight as Thompson & Grace Pharmaceuticals Ltd (T&G Pharma) have introduced surfactant into the country.
Called Bovine Lipid Extract Surfactant (BLES), it is a high potency drug that is capable of accelerating the treatment of pre-mature infants suffering Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome at birth.
Unveiling the drug before a cross-section of Paediatricians and other specialist doctors at the Canadian Deputy High Commission in Lagos on Tuesday, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of (T&G Pharm), Dr. Isaac Thompson Amos said that the introduction of BLES into the Nigerian health-care system was driven by his company’s vision to intervene in the complexities of Neonatal care and lack of life-enhancing medications.
“With BLES, there is greater hope for the Neonates in Nigeria,” he said.
BLES is manufactured by BLES Biochemical Inc., Ontario, Canada after extensive research by teams of international Paediatricians to treat Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Before its importation, it was registered by NAFDAC after it successfully carried out its General Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audit at BLES Biochemical manufacturing facilities in Canada.
In his short remark, Deputy High Commissioner of Canada in Nigeria, Mr. Jamie Christoff said that the High Commission is a platform to facilitate trade between Nigeria and Canada, stressing that “BLES is guaranteed to sustain the health condition of our children in Nigeria.”
One of the members of the research team that conceptualized BLES and Professor of Paediatrics at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, Canada, Dr. Orlando Da Silva told the doctors that Neonatology has transformed with the use of surfactant and outlined the benefits of BLES to include “decrease in mortality, less need for ventilation, decrease in oxygen requirement, decrease in pneumonia which result in overall stability of patient.”
For Dr. Mariya Mukhtar-Yola, Chief Consultant Paeditrician/Neonatologist at the National Hospital, Abuja, “BLES could be a blessing to Nigeria if it is affordable, accessible and we are assured of competence to manage the administration of the drug.”
But Dr. Amos reassured the doctors that the surfactant which they currently order from foreign markets at exorbitant cost of over N150,000 per unit, would be made available across Nigeria and even West Africa, at a cost less than 50% of what they get it now, with the support of his partners and the government.
He further assured them that T&G Pharma would explore areas of collaboration with both States and Federal Ministries of Health to develop the skill and competence of doctors on the administration of BLES and other latest techniques in Nigeria.
Also in attendance are Mr. Dominik Dobransky, Marketing & Development Manager, BLES Biochemical; Professor of Paediatric, Emmanuel Ekanem who appealed to Paediatricians to ensure they “bring down the rate of mortality in Nigeria by keeping surfactant in their Hospitals,” Prof Christian Isichei of Faith Alive Hospital/Foundation, Jos, and UNICEF Representative from Abuja, Dr. Emmanuel Emedo.