Following the public outcry by the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) over the controversial Tyonex Anti-Retroviral drugs, indications emerged yesterday that Nigeria flopped over the issue at the just concluded summit of International Conference for AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which took place in Cape Town, South Africa.
Speaking with journalists on the issue, the National Coordinator of NEPWHAN, Edward Ogenyi, said the pandemonium surrounding the drugs embarrassed Nigeria before the international community at the conference.
Ogenyi stated: "The issue of Tyonex ARV drugs that was a big issue in Nigeria; we took the matter to the global level and the whole world was surprised that in this part of the world, companies that do not have WHO pre-qualification are being allowed to produce essential medication such as ARV drugs.”
Explaining further on how the matter ruined Nigeria’s participation at the ICASA conference, Ogenyi said: “It was a big issue and the matter has gone to global scale. It took the intervention of UNAIDS to calm the situation down.
“As a result, we the civil society protested; because, we are talking about lives here, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, was supposed to chair a session but he sent a representative, Dr Evelyn Ngige, but we stopped all the delegates from making presentations at the international fora, because our people cannot continue to be dying at home and you go outside and be telling people sweet words and all that,” he said.
“Even Prof. Idoko (NACA Director General) was also stopped from making his presentation at ICASA because the situation is just too bad, the number of our members, who are taking Tyonex and reacting to it and are down now are much.”
Ogenyi said both the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and other members of the House of Representatives witnessed what happened at ICASA and assured them that the National Assembly will hold a public hearing on the crisis.
According to him, “no company should be allowed to produce ARV without WHO pre-qualification, it is only in Nigeria that such thing do happened.”
On the role of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), he queried the process used in granting Tyonex the right to produce the ARV drugs, “when we held a meeting in Cape Town and the ministry officials were asked about the process, they said the company has NAFDAC certification, but we all know that in Nigeria, even pure water have NAFDAC certification even when NAFDAC don’t know when and how they got it.”
“In this part, we don’t value life because what happened is like doing business with lives, we also suspect that there are other ARV drugs that do not have WHO prequalification.”
Again, all efforts to speak with Director of HIV/AIDS programme at the Ministry of Health were not fruitful as she refused to pick her calls. Texts messages send to the minister were also not responded to