Nigerians living with diabetes and other diseases may have to cough out a substantial part of their earnings to pay for their monthly medications. Some of them, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented that apart from the high cost, they had to search many pharmacies in their various neigbhourhoods before getting these drugs.
One of them, Mr. Tunde Adebanwo, told our correspondent that after searching major pharmacies in his neigbourhood in Egbeda on Friday, he had to go to Enu- Owa, the open drug market on Lagos Island, to purchase his drugs.
Adebanwo said, “I’m on insulin and Glibenchride, among other medications. I have been taking the drugs for 16 years. I usually spend N12,000 every six weeks to refill my drugs, but that has changed since February. The prices have gone up significantly. Last month, I had to drop insulin because the price increased from N2,800 to N3,500.
Another patient, Mr. Samuel Adefarasin, who had been living with hypertension since 2001, complained that the cost of each of his prescribed drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure had increased by 35 per cent.
Adefarasin said he had changed to a cheaper brand of his medication after the prices were increased in March.
He said, “With N3,000, I could buy all my blood pressure medications for the month. But my pharmacist informed me that the prices had changed. He later advised me to change to a cheaper brand, which even cost N3, 500 at the end of the day .
“When I started experiencing strange symptoms, I requested to go back to my previous medication. Unfortunately two of them were no longer available. They said I should wait till next month to get them , even as I started reacting to the new medication.”
Pharmacists who spoke with our correspondent warned that patients may have to pay more for their drugs and treatment due to the challenges of accessing funds to stock them.
The Chief Executive Officer of Fort Pharmacy, Mr Chinedu Okafor, warned that patients should prepare for a looming scarcity of drugs in the country.
Okafor said that most wholesalers had run out of stock and they were unable to replenish their supplies due to the scarcity of foreign exchange.
He said, “More than 80 per cent of the drugs used to treat and manage hypertension, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases are not produced in Nigeria. They are imported. Now, the importers cannot access foreign exchange to bring in new stock and they have exhausted the supplies that they had since 2015.
“We are selling the last batch of the prescription drugs that we have. If the situation remains the same, the drugs will not just be expensive; they will be scarce.”
Aside prescription drugs, Okafor warned that the price of over-the-counter medications, such as antimalarials and pain relievers, may increase as many pharmaceutical companies are finding it difficult to import the raw materials needed to manufacture due to scarcity of foreign exchange.
To address the challenge, the National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Dr. Albert Alkali, urged the Federal Government to provide a revolving foreign exchange allocation for the pharmaceutical sector.
According to him, this will ensure that drug manufacturers can access foreign exchange to import raw materials needed for the production of majority of the medicines that are currently scarce.
Alkali said,“ There is a sharp drop in capacity utilisation of our existing manufacturing industries due to lack of foreign exchange to import materials. Government, as a matter of urgency, must provide adequate foreign exchange to pharmaceutical industries so that they can bring in necessary raw materials to produce these medicines.”
By: Bukola Adebayo