A pharmaceutical com-pany, AstraZeneca, has given $300,000 grant to health institutions as part of efforts to boost local research into non-communicable diseases.

The Country President, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa Region of the firm, Karl Friberg, said the grant would help Nigerian scientists collate health data and to generate statistics on diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and tuberculosis.

He spoke while presenting the grant to beneficiaries in Lagos.

According to him, international donors and funding agencies always understate the prevalence of diseases in Nigeria due to lack of local data.

Friberg said, “Data statistics is fundamental to medicine and science itself. Nigeria and Africa need accurate data for international collaboration with donor agencies.

“That is why we are encouraging support towards research that can help build knowledge and thus data on diseases and other issues affecting health care delivery in the country.

“This need led us to invite research proposals from academics and scientists interested in the medical and health care fields. Five of the 80 proposals won the grant–an indication that we are not only concerned about our commercial success but also care about the society.”

The Registrar, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Prof. Wole Atoyebi, stressed the need to get accurate data on the prevalence of diseases in Nigeria for proper planning and control of diseases.

He said, “In 2008 alone, non-communicable diseases caused 63 per cent of deaths worldwide and two-thirds of people affected by diabetes live in developing countries. So we must increase knowledge on the enemy in order to defeat it.

“A lot of multinational pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars annually on drugs that treat diseases, which only the rich can afford.

“We must encourage gestures like this aimed at building a veritable database that will be crucial to drawing up policies and effective interventions in medicine.”

The five winning proposals included one superintended by a professor at the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital, Kano State, Mahmoud Sanni, whose team will be conducting research on the Nigerian Heart Failure Registry.

Another medical practitioner from the University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State, Dr. Ernest Ochang, will be evaluating and collating data on drug-resistant tuberculosis in patients.

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