Nigeria Natural Medicine Agency Fails To Patent Any Product Despite N2bn Funding In Four Years
In the third part of the series, the Civic Media Lab looks at the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency and its output in the last five years.
The Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency failed to patent or trademark any product between 2015 and 2019. This is based on Civic Media Lab’s probe into their budgetary provisions, information from the agency’s website and Google searches. The agency received approval to draw down on an estimated N2bn within the five years in review.
At the time this piece was written, the last update on NNMDA’s website was in 2017. The copyright to the website reads 2017 as well.
CML was only able to find proof for one of its research and development themes: the publication of a book on medicinal plants in Nigeria. The agency however, received approval to study, research or develop products and medicines for anti-malaria, anti-diabetes, anti-arthritis, erectile dysfunction, neglected tropical diseases, mosquito repellents, herbal treated nets, among others.
In 2015, the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency received N277.32m to pay salaries and settle overheads; there was no dime for the capital budget.
In 2016, the agency obtained a total recurrent expenditure of N255.22m, capital expenditure was N122.70m.
The agency got funds for five products within this fiscal year. The most expensive of them was N4.77m budgeted for the study, optimisation and processing of raw materials for herbal mosquito repellent. Its cheapest endeavour was the N358, 150 it received approval for to source and process raw materials to make an anti-arthritis cream. The agency also received funding to carry out in-house research and development for disinfectants, anti-malaria tea, as well as another tea for diabetes. The President approved N9.5m for the development of these products.
The agency received N264.5m to handle recurrent spending and increased funding of N563.70m for capital expenditure within this calendar year.
CML found four product developments and research related line items, costing N71.57m. The agency made two provisions for the sourcing, optimisation and processing of raw materials to manufacture its herbal mosquito repellent. In the first line item, which was allocated an estimated N6.6m, the agency said, “Herbal mosquito propellant raw material processing and optimisation studies with purchase of cream making machine?”
In another line item that had more than six descriptions scrambled together, the Natural Medicine Development Agency received N45.26m “to upscale the in-house product development and support to traditional medicine practitioners (TMPS) and others (I) Anti-malarial herbal tea (II) Anti-diabetic herbal tea (III) Anti-mosquito repellent raw materials processing and optimisation studies (IV) Herbal anti-arthritis cream raw material sourcing and processing (V) Analgesic, anti-inflammatory and disinfection activities and (VI) Herbal disinfectants”.
The agency budgeted N11.75m for an ethnomedicinal/veterinary survey in select communities in the South-East and North-West, together with the second volume of a book called Medicinal Plants of Nigeria, as well as proposing to do a clinical evaluation of natural medicinal therapies.
This year, funds made available for recurrent spending was N302.41m, while that assigned for capital expenditure was N802.71m.
In this budgeting cycle, NNMDA received approval to spend N41m on developing natural treatments for livestock diseases. This was its costliest product in the year under review. Its cheapest was the N21m allotted to the development of a natural solution to erectile dysfunction, as well as the herbal answer for the management of prostate enlargement. The agency also secured the approval of N26m for its reoccurring clinical evaluation of medicinal therapies.
It was also given N38m for a malaria vector control programme, which would enable it to develop a long-acting mosquito net using local plants. Also, NNMDA received N24m to develop herbal products for two neglected tropical diseases. The agency obtained N28.75m for its ethnomedicinal/veterinary survey, this time, in the North-Central and South-South, specifically Idanre, Mambila and Obudu Cattle Ranch, as well. If fully funded, the agency would have spent an estimated N152.75m on executing these research and development projects.
In 2019, NNMDA was given N403.5m for salaries, emoluments and overheads, while spending for studies, developments, purchases and constructions would have been credited with N469.05m if the agency received all the funds allocated to it for capital spending.
CML found 10 research and development-themed line items. Eight of the project descriptions identified by the lab were scrambled with different spending intents.
Two projects: “Human Capacity Building Agency’s Staff on Modern Techniques and Technology in Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) in Drug Development and Commercialisation,” as well as, “Development of natural products for treatment of livestock diseases (Ectoparasitics, Herbal Accaricides, Poultry anti-parasites and Egg Production booster, Herbal Anti-Helminthics & Anti coccidial) Staff Capacity Building”, each received N9.5m to rank as the cheapest undertaking the agency obtained approval for.
The N31m assigned to the reappearing clinical evaluation of natural medicine therapies was the largest funding ascribed to NNMDA’s research and product development plans for 2019. This year, the project was lumped together with the creation of a clinical research facility. The item ‘human capacity building’ came up three times across the eight project descriptions that were scrambled with different proposals. Altogether, N148.2m was spread across the 10 intents.
What CML found
NNMDA said on its website that it had written and distributed the publication on medicinal plants to tertiary institutions across the country, in partnership with the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure.
A two-time acting Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, and a professor of Pharmacognosy, Anthony Elujoba, backed the agency’s website, saying, “There were two volumes we wrote then, I happened to be one of the authors.”
His working relationship with the agency spanned the 90s to the early part of the 21st century though. This casts the validity of the ethnomedicinal/veterinary survey, whose second volume the agency said it was writing in 2017 in grey. It did not state if this was a new edition with updated medicinal plants.
The professor also recalled visiting NNMDA some ‘three or four years ago.’
“I visited that place about three or four years ago. They showed me several products on a pilot scale. As at the time I visited, the place had become a mini-factory,” he said.
In a Google scan for the agency’s products, CML discovered that it had budgeted for some of the line items found in the year under review, in 2013.
In 2013, beneath the project: “Development and facilitation of observational studies of herbal therapies for tropical diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria etc.,” NNMDA asked to: “facilitate the continuation of (IN-HOUSE) of herbal mosquito repellent cream and anti-arthritis herbal ointment.”
It also advertised a tender for: “continuation of research and development of herbal anti-diabetic therapies.”
If the line item was repeated in 2014 is unknown, a peek into the agency’s 2014 budget, turned up six line items with the same description, ‘research and development.’
CML however, found a tender dated May 19, 2014, five days before that year’s budget was passed, with the same project name and tenders as the advertised bid dated July 4, 2013.
Following the announcement by the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Friday, that herbal practitioners should make their samples available to either the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, the ministry’s traditional and complementary medicine department or NAFDAC (all of which are agencies under the health ministry), it is unknown if there was any collaboration between NNMDA and these departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, said she could not speak to any partnership between her institute and NNMDA