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An international organisation, AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Limited, has introduced a new research grant aimed at improving the poor health indices of Nigeria, which it blamed on lack of health records to ascertain the magnitude of disease conditions.

AstraZeneca, in its focus on Africa has recently launched the Nigerian grant to facilitate research in both communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in which, in the next three years, the company would invest a total of US$ 300, 000, in a variety of research projects.

The company’s President for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Karl Friberg, while speaking at the launch in Lagos recently said that the intention is to fund five to seven projects each year, noting that prevalence/epidemiological, pharmaco-economic and health outcomes data are vital if African countries must understand their disease burdens.

He noted that the research grant is aimed at building a medical capacity in Nigeria by providing support to both experienced medical academics, as well as academics embarking on a career in research.

Friberg said the focus in Africa on infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria is now broadened to include NCDs like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (e. g. hypertension) and asthma.

“We know these conditions are increasing rapidly in Africa, but we are unable to quantify the extent of the problem. We need local data to know what we are dealing with, so that we can partner with government to address matters earlier in the disease process and avoid the higher downstream costs that come with treating advanced disease states,” he noted.

In her speech at the occasion, the Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Professor Folasade Ogunsola expressed that in Nigeria, the impact of NCDs are enormous and glaring, noting that about five million Nigerians may die of NCDs by the year 2015 and diabetes alone is projected to cause about 52 per cent of the mortality by the year in question.

She noted that the economic cost of NCDs in Nigeria in 2005 was about 400 million dollars from premature deaths due to NCDs and by 2015, it is estimated to rise to about eight million dollars, stressing that presently, about eight million Nigerians suffer from hypertension and four million have diabetes, while 100,000 new cases of cancers are diagnosed each year in Nigeria.

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