JOS – Nigeria on Saturday received 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.

The paucity of the drug, which hit the country at the peak of snake-bites – usually between January and April when the scorching heat forces snakes out of their holes to cool their bodies – had resulted in several deaths.

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.

“The period of acute shortage was agonising, but we are happy that it is now over. The ASV is now available. We have received a total of 4,000 vials of the drug.

“We have received 2,000 polyvalent ASV produced at the Instituto Clodomiro Picado (ICP), University of Costa Rica, which treats bites from all venomous snakes in Nigeria.

“We have also received 2,000 monovalent ASV produced by Micropharm Ltd, United Kingdom, solely for carpet vipers, the commonest snakes in Nigeria,’’ Durfa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Sunday in Jos.

He regretted the delay in the supply of the facility that left snakebite victims helpless, and blamed that on the tedious process involved in producing and importing the ASV.

“The process is usually tedious and lasts more than three months. Normally, we take the 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

“There is a specific period allocated for the production of the ASV for Nigeria. It means we must wait for that period no matter how pressed we are,’’ he explained.

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While urging snake-bite treatment centres to procure the facility, he commended the Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI), for procuring and distributing the drug free, to victims at the General Hospital, Gombe.

He urged governments at all levels, as well as individuals and organisations, to procure the drug and distribute to treatment centres in Gombe, Plateau, Benue, Taraba and other states usually hit by the menace.

Durfa said that the cost of producing and transporting the ASV was high, but thanked the manufacturers – ICP University in Costa Rica and Micropharm Ltd in the UK – for making it available and affordable for Nigerians.

NAN reports that the shortage of the drug had led to several deaths in some snake-treatment centres, especially General Hospital, Kaltungo and Zamko Comprehensive Centre in Langtang, Plateau State.

Records from some treatment centres indicated that an average of 16 cases were received at the peak period, with some snakebite victims forced to patronise quacks and herbal homes which, in most cases, merely worsened their plight.

Durfa, however, says that the shortage of ASV would persist unless the country starts producing the drug locally.

“The only time we can have enough ASV to meet our rising demand is when we produce it locally. That is the only time we can determine our fate. That is the only time we can determine our destiny.

“The partners are ready and willing to transfer the technology for the production of the ASV, but Nigeria has not been forthcoming,’’ he told NAN.