The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research Development (NIPRD) on Friday said ignorance and love was a major hindrance in achieving results in combating sickle-cell anaemia in Nigeria.
Prof. Karniyus Gamaliel, the Director-General of the institute, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He noted that a recent worldwide research of countries with the sickle cell disease showed that Nigeria had the largest number of people living with the disorder.
Gamaliel attributed the country’s status to the refusal of some intending and married couples with incompatible haemoglobin to stay away from each other.
He said that other couples were nonchalant about their haemoglobin status hence they went into marriage without prior knowledge leading to delivery of children with the disorder.
According to Gamaliel, the disorder is a genetic disease which occurs due to the presence of an abnormal form of haemoglobin in the red blood cells called haemoglobin S (Hb S) instead of haemoglobin A (Hb A).
He explained that only people with haemoglobin SS suffered from the disease, adding that those with the AS haemoglobin were only carriers and those with AA were normal.
He urged religious leaders and heads of local communities across the country to continue to conduct pre-marriage counselling for intending couples in order to prevent future crises.
Gamaliel expressed optimism that a sustained effort would yield substantial result.
“One of the major problems we have is that couples who are in love and know that their genotype may lead to the delivery of a sickle cell child still go ahead with their plan to cohabit.
“This makes it difficult to tackle the disorder even though we have been making efforts over the years to bring it to an end. Everyone has been involved in advocacy and sensitisation.
“The Ministry of Health, churches, mosques and traditional rulers counsel their people mostly as part of pre-marriage courses; they advise that everyone must know their partners blood group, genotype and HIV/AIDS status.
“The problem in tackling the disorder is not in detecting it because the facilities are there; it is about the ignorance and nonchalant attitude of people to the disorder,” he said.
The director-general said that the disorder could only be contracted through one’s genotype but added that it shared similar symptoms with anaemia which included discoloration of the blood and the yellowing of the eyes.
He said there was no cure for the disorder but added that the institute in collaboration with local traditional medicine specialists had researched and produced a drug known as “Niprisan” which could be used to manage the disorder.
“Those that have the sickle cell disorder will have to be on the drug for life as there is no cure yet. The drug increases the well-being of the individual as significant improvement has been observed.
“Malaria feeds on blood and so persons who have this disorder rarely suffer from malaria disease because the quality of their blood is low but this is just a minor advantage compared to what they suffer.
“Before we produced Niprisan, we had another drug that was in use but it had severe side effects and it was scarce which made it expensive.
“There is now a bone marrow transplant which some persons use for children to help relieve them of the symptoms as blood is manufactured in the bone marrow,” said the director-general.
He said that the drug was being produced and distributed by the institute at an affordable rate as part of the Federal Government’s social corporate responsibility to citizens.
He said that when the institute produced the drug it sold for N300 but when it was commercialised it sold for N3,500, making it costly for most persons.
Gamaliel said six sickle cell centres in each geopolitical zone had been established by the federal government, adding that some of the facilities available were equipments which could detect the haemoglobin type of unborn babies.
He urged persons living with the disorder and parents to take advantage of the facilities and ensure proper check-up and treatment for themselves and their wards.
He said that with proper management of the disorder and more advocacies and sensitisation there was likelihood that the disorder could be eliminated soon. (NAN)