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As Drug Price Sour Amidst Poverty, Drop In Life Expectancy Eminent In Nigeria – Expert

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The shutting down of some pharmaceutical companies leaving the country coupled with the hyper inflation that has hit the country after the removal of fuel subsidy by President Tinubu administration, prices of malaria, antibiotics, anti-diabetes, hypertension drugs and other related products have soured leading to fears of increased mortality and reduced life expectancy among Nigerians.The danger has manifested more vicious as retail prices for the most commonly used medication in country have skyrocketed by at least 300 per cent in the last six months unchallenged. 

Although food inflation is another threat that is facing Nigeria which stood at 40.01 per cent in March, the inflation rate in pharmaceuticals has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the last four months making avoidable deaths have its way in our hospitals. 

The rising price of malaria, antibiotics, anti-diabetes, hypertension drugs and other pharmaceutical products have heightened the fears of increased mortality and reduced life expectancy among Nigerians. 

A recent Market Survey report conducted in Abuja revealed that the prices of antibiotics and malaria drugs such as Tavernic surged to N25,735 from N11,370 in January, Levofloxacin SGS sold for N1,200 from N550. 

Also Terivid tablet 200mg has jacked to (N10,320 from N4,460), Coartem 80/480( N6,500 from N1,750), Amatem soft gel (N3500 from N1,375), Lonart 80/480 (3500 from 1,700), Ventolin inhaler is sold at N9,000 as against N2,000, while Seretide inhaler goes for N31,950 as against N8,000, Augmentin 625mg from N14,200 to N25,000. 

The future is bleak for most Nigerians who rely to feed on the N30,000 minimum wage as their lives now has been put in between “a snarling devil and the deep blue sea”. 

In an interview last month, Prof Cyril Usifoh, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, blamed the rising prices on the foreign exchange crisis, dependence on medicine imports and rising energy costs. 

At the FMDQ market on yesterday, the Naira closed at N1,234.49 per dollar, coupled with the recent 240 per hike in electricity tariff poses more danger to a common Nigerian. 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, drug imports surged by 68 per cent in the third quarter of 2023. 

This followed the exit of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in August last year, as they parked out of the country without tangible reason presented to common man on the street. 

Another Community Pharmacist, Blessing Adams, in her reaction said the increase in the prices of medicine would certainly lead to many Nigerians dying of chronic diseases as prices are out of their reach. 

She disclosed that patients now go after alternatives medications like herbs due to the high cost of prescribed drugs. 

According to her, “It is pathetic. A patient in my hospital died because of an inability to afford an inhaler.

“Also, a hypertensive patient died because he could no longer afford ARB, CCB and diuretics antihypertensive drugs,” she lamented. 

Similarly, a patient interviewed at the National Hospital, Abuja, Isaac Adebayo, lamented that his family is contemplating alternatives due to the high prices of drugs. 

He said, “We can no longer afford drugs due to high prices. As I speak to you, my family are looking at alternative treatment outside the hospital”. 

Sometimes in February this year, minister of Health, Aliyu Pate said that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was mulling an Executive Order as a short-term measure to reduce the impact of prices of pharmaceutical products; a promise that is yet to see the light of the day. 

Dr Uche Ojinmah, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, in an exclusive interview with Dailypost said the surge in prices of drugs had led to a rise in death rate and a reduction in life expectancy in Nigeria. 

Ojinmah lamented that the infiltration of fake drug was another menace that is threatening the pharmaceutical industry, calling on the government to declared state of emergency on health sector to rescue Nigerians from avoidable death. 

He suggested that a tax waiver for pharmaceutical importers will go a long way in the intervention. 

He explained, “We are in a country where for a hypertensive patient, a drug that used to be sold for N2,000 to N4,000 a few years ago is now selling for N39,000 for a monthly dose, and the minimum wage is N30,000. 

“Antibiotics are now within the range of N8,000 and above. The cheapest drug now is maybe Paracetamol, within N400 per pack. 

“In this country, there will be dual disease burdens, Infection disease and lifestyle disease. 

“In the Western world, they are mainly suffering from diseases of lifestyle such as diabetes, hypertension and others, but in Africa, it is a dual disease burden. 

“Now patients can’t afford antihypertensive drugs, anti-diabetes drugs, not to mention those with kidney and renal failure. Dialysis is now way out of the reach of many people. 

“Those who get infections- young people under five years old are more prone as their parents cannot afford antibiotics. It is not unexpected that the death rate will be high. If we are honest with our data, life expectancy will drop. 

“Going to the hospital is one thing, diagnosis is another and getting treatment is another. 

He continued, “In this discussion, we are not talking about the rise of fake drugs in Nigeria and others that are made with lower ingredients. Some of them are just chalk. All these put together, only God knows how Nigerians are surviving. 

“What doctors are suffering now is that you battle with patients who cannot afford drugs due to high prices. 

“You give patients a prescription, and they go and come back two to three days later to tell you that they can’t afford it, asking for a cheaper option. 

“When a patient returns without taking the prescribed drugs two or three days later, what do you expect? 

“Amid the high prices of drugs, some of them are fake. Some are produced with fewer ingredients. You can even verge on the quality of the drug despite the high cost. 

“We should declare an emergency in the health sector. We need to set things right. No matter what we do, if we don’t control the cost of drugs, we will soon have a problem in our hands. 

“I think the government should agree with local pharmaceutical industries to help them facilitate the production of generic types of these drugs. India did it. When anti-HIV drugs became a problem in India, the government gave funding to local manufacturers to produce them. 

“Nigeria’s government can do the same, and local pharmaceutical companies do it. 

“Remove taxation on medical and pharmaceutical equipment so they can be procured and produced generically. 

“We can’t kill our people because of Patency. Our people should be able to produce locally what they can use locally to care for themselves. That is the fastest solution”. Dailypost.