Nothing can be more painful than when the credibility, integrity, resourcefulness and intelligence of an entire people is brought into disrepute by the few that have access to pages of newspapers. The only thing worse is the editor that allows stories that can have such a profound effect on people be published. Especially in our country where the newspapers are considered at the same level of The Lancet. Its a sad state of affairs in our country; Nigeria proud in the knowledge of all the experts it has produced in all areas of human endeavour. Yet our patriotism will stop most of us from asking the hard questions once there is a story of success out of Nigeria. This is the reason the Dr Abalaka phenomenom could blossom among others…
Today we woke up to a headline in THISDAY. One of Nigeria’s most respected dailies…
It stated boldly….“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”
No less than the Minister of State for Health Dr Aliyu Idi Hong is quoted as describing this as “epoch (sic) and historical”
The paper reports further that:
- “THISDAY had exclusively reported on May 23, 2003 that Nelson had been granted a United States patent entitled “Medicament for the Treatment of Diabetes”
- That an agreement had been signed between Nelson and GDPAU, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA, for the commercialisation of an Antidiabetic Phaytopharmaceutical in Abuja (Note that GPPAU stands for “GD Pandey Ayurveda University” – Ayurveda is said to be ancient wisdom of India, though a system of medicine but aims at self realization or knowing one’s essential nature)
- The drug, which was said to have been administered on many diabetic victims, has been found to be very safe and highly effective.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
When this story first appeared in Thisday in 2003, I wrote a rejoinder on Nigerianworld that is still on the site. If only the reporter googled the name…he would have at least found reason to ask a few more questions. …2003!!!
But what is a patent… I went to the website of the USA’s Patent office and found their definition as “A U.S. patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor(s), issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States.” Then I looked for the criteria for which a patent can be issued on the sam
e site and came up with “Patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof“
Nowhere does it say that the invention (which may be a product, a method of production, or indeed a plant classification) has gone through any scrutiny apart from that of the inventor neither himself…nor any peer review.
In effect anybody can apply for a patent based on the above criteria!
The substance Dr. Louis Obyo Obyo (he describes himself on his website as a PhD in Chemistry) describes as a cure may well turn out to be one…but there is a long way to go…. and until that point is reached can we celebrate. The Newspaper will do well to live up to its motto of “The Pursuit of Truth and Reason“ and seek this truth even if it takes verification of the authenticity of such articles prior to publication by any of the abundant learned scientists scattered around Nigerian institutions of learning.
The study on which he based his conclusions was made on a “grand total” of 31 people (26 patients and 5 controls!). Results as quoted by the newspaper…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.
- This is exactly the same statement mande in 2003, probably referring to the same “study”
- No reference is made to a source of the publication in any peer review journals as is the standard in any health research.
This is what Thisday refers to as Nelson’s “wonder” drug
Dr Nelson will do well to seek counsel on the necessary scrutiny any invention (especially medical) needs to go through before it is released unto human “guinea pigs” as has often been done by various claimants that pop up in Nigeria from time to time.
The assumption that most of us NIGERIANS are unintelligent and stupid and consequently vulnerable to believing as the truth whatever is written by some of our newspapers must be put to rest. We in the scientific community have a responsibility to respond. Those of us that have taken the Hippocratic oath, as doctors must remember the words “I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.” It is the lives of people that we are dealing with…and even if it seems so cheap in Nigeria today, we must not forget.
Most importantly our Minister of State has a responsibility when he speaks. He must take this extremely seriously. His prescence must have given THISDAY the impetus to start with the audacious statement….”ITS OFFICIAL…”
I am sure that I will be barraged by accusations of not being patriotic but fortunately (or unfortunately for others) good science knows no boundaries….
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead