Letter to Thisday…


Since we published the story about the Nigerian that allegedly found a cure for diabetes, we have been inaudated by emails, comments and our blog has had more hits than ever before.

Among all that, we have chosen to publish just one letter. It gives us confidence that even in the present state of afairs in our country there are several good men; role models for us growing in our careers to look up to. Dr Shima Gyoh was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health during the tenure of Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti as Health Minister (considered by most as the only bright spot in our health sector since independece). Until February 2008 he was the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council (MDCN). Gyoh is a Professor of Surgery, currently at the Benue State University, Makurdi, Benue State, and has just been named as Chairman of the board of Governors for the University of Jos. To read his thinking about the health sector in Nigeria, read this piece published in Newwatch in October 2008 titled How to Fix Nigeria: Health

We publish his letter to the Editor of Thisday, unedited below.

The Editor,

This Day Newspaper


Interview: ‘I stumbled on the treatment for diabetes by chance’ -Dr. Louis Obyo Obyo Nelson –ThisDay

By Paul Ibe, Etim Imisim and Senator Iroegbu, 02.07.2009

I wish to comment on this interview. The claimant of the discovery is not a medically trained man, so his understanding of diabetes mellitus, which presumably is what he is talking about, is severely limited—there is no mention of the specifying word mellitus in the interview. I note the following important points.

  1. He seems to be unaware of the fact that no country in the world, not even Nigeria, would permit human trials until extensive animal trials have given a good idea of efficacy and what side effects to expect in human beings.
  2. He is also confused by the difference between permanent cure and management of the condition. He uses the term stress of the pancreas without really knowing what it means. By insisting on the change of lifestyle, he is inadvertently admitting that his wonder drug is, at best, no advance on other oral hypoglycaemic agents currently available.
  3. The greatest indication that he is on a fraudulent mission to become super-rich is the bit about its aphrodisiac side effect in men and women. Millions would go for whatever drug is reputed to produce this effect. Since human sexual behaviour is highly encephalised, since most impotence is psycho-somatic, taking any placebo and believing it to be aphrodisiac would produce positive results and an explosion in demand, like in the horn of the rhinoceros, the demand of which has been threatening to make the animal extinct. The owner of the patent would become a billionaire by the time his drug is scientifically proved to be worthless as secrecy and Nigeria’s tortuous legal processes would take years.

It is unfortunate that these journalists went to print to build the claimant into a hero and a legend without first obtaining the views of known experts on this complex and highly specialised topic.

Shima Gyoh.

Professor of Surgery

College of health sciences

Benue State University



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

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (www.epiafric.com), which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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