The National Health Research Committee has developed a costed work plan of N200 million only, for COVID-19 research for the year 2020, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire said.
Ehanire disclosed this at the weekend in a presentation before the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on COVID-19 during an investigative hearing on’ “Need to Investigate the Status of Medical Research in the Fight Against Covid-19 and Other Diseases in Nigeria”.
The Minister who called for adequate funding for research into COVID-19 in Nigeria said no fund has been released for COVID-19 research activities since the advent of the pandemic.
He told the lawmakers that the major challenge in finding a solution to the coronavirus disease is a lack of funds for research and development in the country.
According to Ehanire: “The Research Division of FMOH has actively involved in Nigeria COVID-19 Research Consortium (NCRC) which is a conglomerate of research entities from the government, NCDC, the academia and private sector. Several research protocols are being reviewed by the NCRC for possible sponsorship.
“The NCRC had developed a research agenda for conducting the WHO COVID-19 research roadmap, with thematic areas. This agenda has been adopted by the NHRC.
“The WHO Solidarity Trial is currently ongoing and the National Health Research Ethics Committee (NHREC) and The Notionoi Agency for Food and Drugs (NAFDAC) carrying out an expedited review of the protocol with the secretariat provided by the DHPRS to FMOH.
“There are 9 states in the country currently registered to participate in the trial with a total of 19 clinical trial sites. More states could still register to participate. Virtual training for all Principal investigators in the trial is billed for the next two weeks.
“The Research Technical Working Group of the Presidential Taskforce on COVlD- 19 has recently been formed and the Department of Planning Research and Statistics (DHPRS) will serve as its Secretariat. The inauguration of this Committee is scheduled for next week”.
He added that: “NHREC and NAFDAC had also developed an MOU for expedited review of COVlD-19 research protocol for a clinical trial in Nigeria NHREC and NAFDAC are currently reviewing the WHO solidarity trial protocol on COVID -19”.
In his presentation, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu said the Centre has rounded up a pilot study on COVID-19 in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the research work would be extended to other parts of the country, adding that NCDC is conducting few studies on clinical management on healthcare workers infection.
“In the absence of funds allocated to research at the beginning of the response, NCDC, NIAMET, NUC, TEFFUND came together and formed a collaboration called Nigeria COVID-19 Research Consortium. This is the collaboration of the willing that wanted to do research rather than Consortium established by the government. We came together to pull our resources to drive research on COVID-19,” he added.
Responding to questions by lawmakers, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye said the Agency has received 20 traditional medicinal applications for COVID-19 treatment which are being given an extradited review approach.
On efforts by the Agency to tackle COVID-19, Adeyeye said: “NAFDAC is also liaisoning between the pharmaceutical industry and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure that pharmaceutical industries are strengthened. I am glad to report that about six pharmaceutical companies have gotten funding.
“I am also liaisoning with TETFUND and for the first time, TETFUND is giving grants to non-academic institutions and NAFDAC is the first to get that. With that, we have fund clinical projects that have been funded and that is going to start very soon.
“To focus on COVID-19 we had to do emergency authorization of drugs product, medical devices, diagnostics, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We jumped into this COVID-19 with little or no resources because six months ago we never thought of wearing PPE and now we have to develop guidance”.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Haruna Mshelia called for multi-sectoral stakeholder engagement by the Federal Ministry Health in the COVID-19 response.
While calling for concrete research proposals on COVID-19 that would attract sponsorship, Mshelia said: “There are certain bodies that are prepared to key in if proper proposals are brought up.
“Such organizations include but not limited to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), World Health Organization (WHO), Bill Gate Foundation, Otedola Foundation, BUA Foundation. If we are able to come up with concrete proposals, these people can come in”.