Abuja — It's official - a Nigerian scientist, Dr. Louis Obyo Obyo Nelson, has finally found a cure for the dreaded diabetes disease which afflicts over 123 million sufferers all over the world.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Aliyu Idi Hong, yesterday described as "epoch and historical" the production of Antidiabetic Phytopharmaceutical by Nelson in collaboration with the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Research and Development.
Diabetes is a potentially life-threatening condition in mammals brought about by an inability of the mammals to produce insulin. Insulin, a polypeptide hormone produced in the pancreas of the mammal, controls the amounts of glucose present in the blood by stimulating the uptake of glucose by the muscle and adipose tissue.
THISDAY had exclusively reported on May 23, 2003 that Nelson had been granted a United States patent entitled "Medicament for the Treatment of Diabetes", a feat that raised hopes for millions of sufferers of the disease worldwide. It also exclusively reported on June 5, 2003 a confirmation from the US Patent Office that indeed a patent had been made out to the Nigerian scientist.
Hong said yesterday at the signing of an agreement between Nelson and GDPAU, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA, for the commercialisation of an Antidiabetic Phaytopharmaceutical in Abuja that the drug would contribute to the quality of health care all over the world and boost the economy of the country.
The drug, which was said to have been administered on many diabetic victims, has been found to be very safe and highly effective. It was also said to have corrected erective dysfunctions noticed in those victims.
The minister said the drug would expand the landscape of medicare in the world and encourage more researches into herbal drugs in the country.
"I believe that there are so many of such leaves in the bushes in Nigeria that can cure many of these diseases that are proving difficult in the world. This is an epoch and historical day in the history of this country," he said.
The minister noted that diabetes has posed a serious health challenge worldwide, and is the sixth largest killer in Nigeria.
"There is hardly a house you go to in Nigeria that one person will not be affected by this killer disease," he said.
He pledged the support of the Federal Government to the efforts of research institutes, especially those who are into herbal medicine research.
Director-General of Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research, Dr. Ufot Inyang, described as unfortunate the inability of the Federal Government to explore the enormous benefits in the herbal market.
He regretted that although the market had the capacity of generating over $100 billion annually, the country was not taking advantage of it.
He said the ongoing global economic crisis would adversely affect the fortunes of Nigerian pharmaceutical companies and stressed the need to focus on the herbal drugs.
"It is an opportunity we have been missing and I don't want us to miss it again," he said.
Representative of GDPAU, Prof. Ramesh Pandey, who described the drug as one of the greatest things that will come out of the continent, said it could go a long way in helping to launder the image of the country. He commended the efforts of Nigerian researchers, describing them as one of the best in the world.
The drug will be funded and marketed by a Nigerian company, TREC International Limited. It is estimated that it will cost the company an initial $10 million to deliver the drug to the market.
Nelson recorded a breakthrough in his research for a drug that could cure diabetes when the US government issued him with a patent (No. 6,531,461) for his medication, which can effectively treat Type I and Type II diabetes.
A documented proof of the discovery showed that Nelson, who then resided at Plot 574 Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, Abuja, filed his application for a US patent June 4, 2001.
The 'Medicament for the treatment of Diabetes' patent with application No. 09/873,560 was approved March 11 2003.
An official of the United States Patent had confirmed to THISDAY on telephone June 4, 2003 that Nelson was actually granted a patent for his invention of a possible cure for diabetes.
The official, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Robinson, acknowledged that a United States patent with number US 6,531,461 B1 bearing application number 09/873,560 and dated March 11, 2003 was indeed approved for Nelson.
The enquiries at the US patent office followed the interest the story of May 23, 2003 had generated. E-mail dated May 25, 2003 to the United States Patent and Trademark Office seeking to establish the authenticity of Nelson's claim was replied, but with a directive to call the General Information Services Division (GISD) on telephone.
Unlike insulin which has been used for many decades to manage diabetes, Nelson's "wonder" drug can be administered orally, making it possible for patients to administer it as capsule, tablet or syrup. Insulin can only be injected into the body.
The award to Nelson, a graduate of Chemistry from the University of Ibadan, was made on the strength of his research, which determined the exact chemical structure of the active ingredient. The research was also able to determine the quantity of the drug, which could be tolerated in the human body, and yet be able to stem the patient's condition.
Nelson's drug had been subjected to two clinical trials the last being at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital (UJTH).
At the first clinical trial, the initial extract derived from Vernonia amygdalina was orally administered to 26 patients all of whom had been previously diagnosed as suffering from insulin deficiency. For control, a group of five were used, who maintained diet discipline throughout the trial. The initial extract was dosed to the patients three times daily in 100mg aliquots for six months.
The blood glucose levels of all 31 subjects were closely monitored. It was revealed that the 26 patients receiving the initial extract no longer required maintaining diet discipline after the first month and examination showed remission of the disease after three months.
Fifteen patients were said to have continued receiving medication for the remaining three months of the trial.
The document that accompanied Nelson's patent application showed that all those who volunteered for the experiment appeared to have recovered from the disease and have returned to their normal life prior to the diagnosis of the disease.
Nelson, 61, who holds a doctorate degree in Molecular and Computational Chemistry from the University of Ibadan, hails from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
He served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2001, worked with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council.