On Saturday, 27th April 2019 Government received about 4,000 vials of Anti-Snake Venom (ASV), ending months of acute shortage of the drug and bringing relief to victims of snakebites across the country. It was gathered that there was a paucity of the drug, which hit the country at the peak of snake-bites – usually between January and April when the scorching heat forces snake out of their holes to cool their bodies.
The development resulted in several snakebite-related deaths in some parts of the country.
According to Dr Nandul Durfa, Managing Director, Echitab Study Group, the outfit handling the distribution of ASV in Nigeria, many snake-bite treatment centres recorded many deaths during that period as the medics were helpless. He added that the period of the acute shortage was agonizing, but gratefully, it is now over. The ASV is now available. He put the total vials received at 4,000.
He also disclosed that they are in receipt of 2,000 polyvalent ASV produced at the Instituto Clodomiro Picado (ICP), University of Costa Rica, which treats bites from all venomous snakes in Nigeria.
Add to it, they also received 2,000 monovalent ASV produced by Micropharm Ltd, United Kingdom, solely for carpet vipers, the commonest snakes in Nigeria.
More so, Durfa informed the media on Sunday, 28th April 2019 in Jos, Plateau state that the delay in the supply of the drugs to the facility is regrettable.
It has left snakebite victims helpless, and blamed that on the tedious process involved in producing and importing the ASV.
He highlighted that the process of production is usually tedious and lasts more than three months. Normally, they take live snakes to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine where they are killed and their venom extracted and sent to the manufacturing sites in Wales and Costa Rica.
Related to it, there is a specific period allocated for the production of the ASV for Nigeria. It means the country must wait for that period no matter how pressed we are. He then urged snake-bite treatment centres across the country to procure the facility.
Comment further on the matter, Durfa commended the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI) for procuring and distributing the drug for free to victims of snakebites at the General Hospital in Kaltungo Local Government Area (LGA) in Gombe.
He urged Governments at all levels, as well as individuals and organizations to procure or make an effort of producing the drug and distribute it to treatment centres in Gombe, Plateau, Benue, Taraba and other states usually prone to the menace.
It was reported at the beginning of the year 2019 that, the shortage of the drug had led to several deaths in some snake-treatment centres, especially in General Hospital, Kaltungo, Gombe state and Zamko Comprehensive Centre in Langtang, Plateau State.
Records from some treatment centres indicated that an average of 16 cases was received at the peak period, with some snakebite victims forced to patronize quacks and herbal homes which, in most cases, merely worsened their plight.