NIGERIA—Pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer Inc, has relaunched Eliquis, an anticoagulant to treat as well as help prevent blood clots, a leading cause of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in adults.

Eliquis is a blood thinner medication, used to manage cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation which is a common cause of death in the adult population.

Cardiologists note that anticoagulants or blood thinner medicines like Eliquis prevent blood clots from forming, they do not break up clots that are present, but they can stop those clots from getting bigger.

Furthermore, it is important to treat blood clots because clots in your blood vessels and heart can cause heart attacks, strokes, and blockages, leading to death.

Speaking at the relaunch, Olayinka Subair, cluster lead West Africa at Pfizer stated that for more than 150 years, Pfizer has been a leader in tackling some of the most persistent healthcare challenges through breakthrough medicines and vaccines.

According to Subair, Pfizer’s medical breakthroughs change people’s lives as it focuses on the areas of greatest need, tackling the diseases that present the biggest challenge across countries and regions.

Subair keenly observed that with hypertension as the number one heart disease and a risk factor for stroke, affecting not less than 10 million adults in Nigeria, there is a need for effective treatment, to improve the success rate of treatment of severe and critically ill patients.

Despite advocacy on the management of heart conditions like atrial fibrillation and blood glucose level was gaining ground, there was still a lot to be done to create awareness among patients and practitioners, noted Subair at the event.

A professor of medicine, consultant physician, and cardiologist, at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Amam Chinyere Mbakwem, said Venous thromboembolism (VTE), a term referring to blood clots in the veins, is an underdiagnosed and a serious health condition, that can cause disability and death,

Prof. Mbakwem pointed out that VTE was preventable with the help of Eliquis, Pfizer’s breakthrough medicine in preventing blood clots from forming in the heart in patients with irregular heartbeat.

Explaining further, Mbakwem said while a blood clot (the seal created by the blood to stop bleeding from wounds) is useful in stopping bleeding, it can block blood vessels and stop blood flowing to organs such as the brain, heart, or lungs if they form in the wrong place.

“An abnormal heartbeat is associated with considerable morbidity, including an increased risk of cognitive impairment, a three-fold increase in the risk of heart failure, and a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke,” said Prof. Mbakwem.

The Rise of CVDs in Africa

The World Health Organisation notes that at least three-quarters of the world’s deaths from CVDs occur in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO further notes that CVDs are often called “silent killers” because heart attacks and strokes are a common first warning sign of an underlying disease.

The Global Burden of Disease study, 2019 records that globally, cardiovascular-related deaths have steadily increased by over a third from just over 12 million in 1990 to 18.6 million in 2019.

Additionally, in Africa, CVDs are the largest contributor to the total NCD burden, accounting for 38.3% of NCD deaths and 22.9 million people.

Contrary to several high-income countries (HIC) which recorded reductions in cardiovascular deaths, Africa has registered close to a 50% increase in the CVD burden within the last three decades.

 A recent systematic review from the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology has summarized the epidemiology of atrial fibrillation (AF) in Africa where the prevalence ranged between 6.7% and 34.8% in patients with ischemic stroke.

Moreover, the review also notes that 9.5% and 46.8% of those with Rheumatic Heart Disease, and between 5% and 31.5% of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy with AF.

Additionally, complications of AF included heart failure in about two-thirds and stroke in 10% and 15% of cases.

Consequently, the use of anticoagulation for stroke prevention is challenging, given its use is inconsistent and largely suboptimal. 

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