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Guidelines about who can dispense diarrhoea drugs up for review

Experts have called for a review of guidelines to allow all levels of primary health centres dispense medication to treat diarrhoea in children. They have…

Experts have called for a review of guidelines to allow all levels of primary health centres dispense medication to treat diarrhoea in children.

They have also called for use of zinc and low-concentration oral rehydration salts to be rolled out nationwide as first-line medication to manage and treat childhood diarrhoea.

Present guidelines mean qualified health workers can only dispense medication like amoxicillin dispersible tablets in level-one primary health centres.

But posting them to a different type of primary health centre where they do administrative work prevents from dispensing medication, even when they have the knowledge and are qualified to do so.

Experts meeting in a national dialogue on Amoxicillin DT and Zinc/Lo-ORS, which coincided with World Pneumonia day want the Essential Medicines List review committee to change the guidelines, according to Dr Adeniyi Ekisola, deputy director of health systems support at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

The committee approves medication that is included in the essential medicines list.

“We have been in consultation with the review committee. What we want is that] they should allow all levels of [primary health centres], once it is qualified to dispense. That will remove the challenge.”

The dialogue involved the Federal Ministry of Health, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family health (PACfaH).

Few hands, many cases

First-line treatment for diarrhoea is amoxicillin dispersible tablets—which dissolve in drops of water so children can take it.

A separate low-concentration formulation of zinc oral rehydration salts help correct fluid lost in diarrhoea.

Zinc also is an adjunct, which helps the body absorb medication better.

But the concern is that even qualified healthworkers may be prevented from dispensing anti-diarrhoea medicine because they work in a centre where they are not allowed to.

Together with pneumonia, diarrhoea is considered a huge killer of young children in Nigeria.

Health permanent secretary Amina Shamaki, represented by the director for family health, Dr Wapada Balami, said the dialogue is to chart a course to halt preventable and treatable childhood diseases.

An estimated 400,000 Nigerian children died from either disease in 2013—201,368 from diarrhoea and 177,212 from pneumonia, she said.

The dialogue is also looking for government to encourage local production, distribution and promotion to encourage home-grown firms to produce the products, according to PACFaH project director, Dr Mohammed Saleh.

“Appropriate promotion of commodities by local healthcare providers and private sector actors by enacting friendly policies that will ensure the targeted communities have access to these life-saving product,” he said.

He called on government to endorse use of recommended tablet Amoxicillin DT and Zinc/Lo-ORS  with a universal coverage to assist in reducing morbidity and mortality of children under age 5 years children in Nigeria.