By Doris Obinna
In this interview with Daily Sun, Okani talked about the burden of malaria in the country and how the company has contributed to the fight against malaria.
What is your assessment of malaria burden in Nigeria, particularly, and in sub-Saharan Africa, generally?
Particular attention needs to be paid to those living in the hinterland. Like I said earlier, government at all levels have a role to play by creating proper drainage in those areas. Their living condition is something to be concerned about. Malaria is a major public health problem; it accounts for more cases and deaths. And again, Nigeria, because of our location, the population is at risk for malaria. Meanwhile, in general, Africa is the most affected due to a combination of factors; the living conditions and our attitude towards our health, for example, the poor man believes mosquitoes do not kill but only bite.
How has Mark Pharmaceuticals contributed to the fight against malaria?
Mark Pharmaceuticals was conceived and registered in 2005. It made its entry in 2007. Since then, what we have been doing so far as a pharmaceutical firm, is to ensure that all our products are registered by the right authorities, such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Availability and quality is another way. By this, it means we ensure we do not go out of products. We also ensure that our end users get value for what they pay for. Again, as a member of the association of pharmaceutical importers, we regulate the prices of these drugs to ensure they are affordable for all and sundry.
What edge has your anti-malaria brand over other generics?
Mark Malastop is a brand of Artmether Lumefantrine. Our anti-malaria drug, Malastop, is imported from a reputable and recognized manufacturing company in China. It is registered by NAFDAC. It is always available, effective, affordable and competitive.
How can Nigeria ever be free of malaria?
It is very possible to eradicate malaria, if government would ensure that import duties and levies on manufacturing companies that produce these drugs are sustained. Before now, manufacturing companies enjoyed zero duties but for about two years now it has been stopped. Also by building manufacturing plants here in the country, which in turn would create job opportunities for the teeming youth out there. In other words, if we manufacture these drugs locally, it would be beneficial to all in terms of affordability.
Importing drugs is expensive because of the freight and duties. That said, everybody has a role to play in eradicating malaria in this country. Creating proper drainages as well as keeping our environment clean always and with support from stakeholders and the right agencies, ‘zero malaria’ is achievable. I am not saying it can be done within a year, it might take a while, but it is something that can be achieved.
Do you think locally manufactured anti-malaria can satisfy demand of malaria drugs in Nigeria?
Yes it can. Because if we have API and other packaging materials in our warehouse, we can produce it; instead, we import them. In importation, anything can happen. For instance, last year, because of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, many of the orders we gave to our manufacturers took them eight to nine months to produce, which is not usually the case. So, what would have happen if lockdown lingered say for years? What it means is that it would disrupt production and render manufacturers handicap, thereby creating scarcity in the country.
Malaria ailment is common among us in this part of the world. The drugs, as you know, are the commonest drugs you can get over the counter. There’s no pharmacy you go to today that don’t sell anti-malaria. So, the length of time it took our manufacturers to produce our order, if production is done here in Nigeria, it wouldn’t have happened.