As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) are intensifying efforts towards developing drugs that can treat the symptoms of the deadly virus.
According to the Chairman, UNN Chapter of the Nigeria Association of Pharmacists in Academia (NAPA), Dr Chukwuemeka Ubaka, pharmacists in the institution have embarked on various research works, which have reached advanced stages, adding that the university will hopefully come up with active molecules that will treat the virus by next year.
Disclosing this to Pharmanews in an interview, Ubaka explained that pharmacists in the institution are determined to curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
He said: “At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, three key efforts have been put into action as part of pharmacists’ contribution to the fight against COVID-19. First, members of the faculty, either as a department or as individuals have engaged themselves in the massive production of quality hand sanitizers.
“This became necessary and timely because the market was flooded with very poor-quality sanitizers and disinfecting agents. But pharmacists at UNN produced sanitizer gels and sprays at World Health Organisation (WHO) approved standards, which were made available to nearby hospitals and pharmacies.”
The UNN NAPA chairman added, as a second strategy, that academic pharmacists at the institution were largely involved, at individual levels, in the increase of awareness of the disease among various groups of people, including the university community, places of worship and other virtual professional groups globally.
“Thirdly, various research groups in the faculty are deeply involved in the discovery of active compounds for the symptomatic treatment of COVID-like respiratory diseases. A number of these research groups are nearing funding by local and international bodies, while reaching very advanced stages before pre-clinical trials”, the NAPA chairman said.
Ubaka stated that the results of the research efforts are expected to be out by next year to combat the deadly pandemic, saying the remaining days in the year is are short for the completion of the work.
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“Currently, some members have identified potential active compounds that could help in the management of the viral infection, but the end of the year is way too short a time to get a drug for treating COVID-19.
“Drug development is a very long and highly expensive process. At best, by next year, we hope one of the studies would have come up with active molecules or herbal products that could have a safe and effective action against such viral infections”, Ubaka said.
He also charged the Nigeria government to continue to fund local research towards finding solutions for the management of the virus, stressing that Nigerians are likely to appreciate local drugs or vaccines than imported ones.
He said: “The race for an effective and safe vaccine globally is on. There will be compromises as clinical stages are being rushed and the effects of these vaccines might only be seen after long time use by the population. The Nigerian citizenry are not yet disposed to taking these vaccines when they begin to arrive, but perceptions might change. Therefore, it will be important for Nigeria government to continue to fund local research on local solutions for the management of the virus and this could be better accepted by its citizens.
“It is also becoming difficult to insist that people should retain the personal protective strategies; but if an effective treatment or vaccine is available, it might help to reduce the incidence and mortality of this disease”, the NAPA chairman stressed.