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Saturday, 02 December 2023 06:52

Patients Groan Over Rising Cost Of Drugs

The skyrocketing cost of medicines over the last few months is taking a toll on Nigerians. Findings revealed that many people suffering from minor and common ailments and those who require life-long management of their ailments, such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension are increasingly finding it difficult to meet up with the costs of their prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.

Some brands of popular medicines have also become scarce across many pharmacies, health facilities and retail outlets. As a result, patients have to travel long distances to access them and at very high prices, compared to previous prices.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the situation is dire for some patients with chronic ailments, such as cancer, heart, kidney and liver diseases as some have to resort to partial treatment or abandon it all together.

Nigeria has been described as Africa’s largest drug market with over 70 per cent of medicines used in the country imported from India, China and other countries.

Experts also said over 70 per cent of payment for health care services in Nigeria is done from out-of-pocket expenditure, meaning that people pay most of their health care bills from their little income.

 

This has made it difficult for many, particularly poor Nigerians to access health care, especially with the skyrocketing cost of medicines.

 

 

 

Reasons for rising cost of drugs

The president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Prof Cyril Usifo, blamed the hike in prices of drugs on the increase in the prices of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs).

“One thing is obvious. The things we use to produce medicines, the APIs, are not produced here. It depends on how much we are using to get them. Then, there is no energy to produce these things. You use generators; and you know the price of diesel. If you price all these together, as a businessman, would you sell for less price?

“If you produce with one kobo, won’t you sell it for one and half kobo so that you would be able to pay your workforce?

“So the answer is obvious. The roads are not good. Go to Agbara and see that some people would produce the drugs but by the time they are evacuating them to reach people here, the vehicle breaks down because the roads are very bad.

 

“What I am saying in essence is that whatever is happening is not particular to the pharmaceutical sector. It is very painful because at the end of the day, what is happening is that some pharmacies would buy a drug at N2 and they would not give me the exact price. By the time they sell it to you and go to buy the same drug, it would be N5.

“They don’t even have their capital recovered and they have to spend more. And when you want to buy from them you begin to complain.The same companies that are producing are increasing within three months. A pharmacy told me they increased the price of a particular drug more than three times,” he said.

The chairman of the PSN, Borno State chapter,   Umaru Abdulkareem, said another reason for the rising cost of medicines was the exit of multinational pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) from the country.

He said that as a result, the cost of the medicines they manufactured, like their brand of salbutamol inhaler called Ventolin, which is used by asthma patients, has gone high.

 

He said the cost of some drugs for asthma patients that was just N4,000 had increased to N12,000.

While saying that the cost of another of their brand called Augmentin tablet that was just N6,000 has risen to N24,000 , he said there was also a rise in anti-malaria drugs.

Forex scarcity impedes pharmaceutical companies

In recent months, many multinational pharmaceutical companies have exited Nigeria, citing unfavourable business environment.

An acute forex shortage sparked by lower oil revenues has affected multinationals operating in the country.

For some, there weren’t enough dollars to import raw materials, while others were unable to repatriate profits to their parent companies due to the FX challenge.

Drug manufacturers in Nigeria had warned in June that the scarcity of FX may cause drug scarcity owing to the inability to meet dollar-denominated obligations to some of their suppliers.

British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in August announced plans to shut its operations in Nigeria.

GSK Nigeria, which is best known for household brands like Panadol, Andrews Liver Salt and Sensodyne, exited the country after 51 years existence, saying it would adopt a distributor-led model to supply its products in the country.

During its 52nd Annual General Meeting in 2022, the chairman of the Board of Directors, Edmund Onuzo, said the firm, which was the second biggest manufacturer of drugs in Nigeria, was struggling to maintain supply of its pharmaceutical and vaccine products due to shortage of dollars to import ingredients.

“The challenges ahead are quite significant. Some of you may have read reports from few media houses regarding the supply constraints on GSK drugs in the market. We must mention that it continues to be very challenging with foreign exchange non-availability affecting our ability to settle foreign currency-denominated trade payables with product suppliers,” he had said

 

In November, Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical multinational, which has been struggling, joined GSK Nigeria in announcing its exit from Nigerian operations. The company said it had appointed a third-party distributor to handle its commercial portfolio of medicines from February 2024.

In a related development, Daily Trust Saturday recalls that Unilever Nigeria recently also announced changes in its business model to cease production of homecare category products in June, and ended sales in September. The change was necessitated by the economic headwind.

According to the company’s unaudited interim financial statements for the first nine months of 2023, it lost N1.09billion in the third quarter of 2023. Borrowing costs widened to N1.03bn in Q3 2023 from N328.89million in Q3 2022, mostly caused by the forex policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). It also lost N6.297bn in valuation and posted restructuring cost of N3.27bn because of the devaluation of the naira.

Evans Medicals was also forced to shut down operations in 2017 after a court ordered that the drug maker’s assets be taken over by First Bank and the now-defunct Skye Bank due to bad debt.

 

Situation across states

Mr Okeowo, a contract staff in a bank in Ibadan, earns below N70,000 monthly. His mother, aged 75 has been managing hypertension in the last 20 years and Okeowo has been the one footing the bills. He lamented that the rising cost of drugs is threatening his commitment to footing the bills.

He said, “Just last year, I used to spend between N10,000 and N12,000 monthly to buy my mother’s medical supplies. But these days, I spend well above N20,000 and it strains my pocket, but I don’t have a choice. I am hoping for more grace to be able to take care of her. The poor woman has no one but me and I am already on the edge.”

A pharmacist at Jochem Pharm, Bashorun Ibadan, disclosed that the increasing prices of pharmaceutical drugs products were alarming, even to business owners. According to him, some patients resort to buying other brands of a prescription just because they cannot afford the ones recommended.

Asked whether this has decreased sales, he said there had been no significant reduction in the level of purchases.

 

“We only noticed that people tend to go for cheaper brands, but they still buy at the end of the day. You know, medications are a necessity. For instance, we have paracetamol tablets from N500 to N200, N150 and N100 per sachet. What we notice is that more people demand for the cheaper ones, which is fine as this doesn’t in most cases determine the efficacy of those drugs,” he said.

Dr Adegboye, a lecturer im the University of Ibadan, who suffers from chronic asthma, said that her drugs were a life priority for her. “I cannot but buy my drugs; they are almost more important than food to me. So, while I complain and grumble about the skyrocketing prices of drugs and medicals, I still have to buy them. I sometimes imagine people who cannot afford the medications but suffer from these ailments. The government has to do something about it. Drugs shouldn’t be expensive like luxuries,” she said.

Mrs Rebecca Gbenga who spoke with our correspondent in Lagos lamented that the price of her drug had almost doubled. She said her eye drops, which she used to buy at the cost of N1,200, now goes for N1,800, adding, “This happened in less than a week and we are not sure it would come down. Go to any pharmacy and find out how much is Cusimolol eye drop today and how much it was two weeks ago. I don’t know what will happen the next time I want to buy it.”

 

A community pharmacist who identified herself as Mrs Nelly said the manufacturers of drugs increased prices on a daily basis.

“If we bought Gestid, for instance, today at N1,100, the following day it would increase to N1,500, and that is from the distributors. Many Nigerians are not happy, but our hands are tied.

I have resorted to traditional medicine – Diabetic patient

A diabetic patient in Edo State who gave his name as Patrick Odiase said he was finding it difficult to manage his aliment.

He said that as result of the high cost of drugs, many patients had resorted to traditional medicine in managing diabetes.

“I have been managing diabetes for 12 years now, but things are difficult because of the high cost of drugs. I have been using the Glucophage brand of metformin and Daonil and they  have been working for me.”

 

According to him, a packet of Glucopage with two sachet is now selling at N6,500 as against N400.

“In September, I bought the same drug at N2,000 or N2,200, depending on the pharmacy. In October, it skyrocketed from N2,000 to N4,200, and in November, it went up to N6,500,” he said.

He said that as a result of the development he had to reduce the drug he is using, especially, multi-vitamin like Biobetic and Biopentin, which is now N5,000 as against N3,000.

 

Also speaking, another diabetic patient who wished to be identified as Igbinovia, said he was finding it difficult to cope with the rising cost of drugs.

“The cheapest drug for managing diabetes, Dabetimi, has moved from N300 in October to N400 per sachet,” he said.

He said that sometimes he relied on traditional medicine if his drug got exhausted and he had no money to replace them.

 

He lamented that the rising cost of drugs was really affecting those managing the ailment.

He called on the federal government to subsidise diabetes drugs, saying many have died as a result of the inability to afford the  drugs.

Speaking on the development, Daniel Edegbe, a pharmacist and the owner of Gina Pharmacy, attributed the development to lack of forex for importers to bring in drugs, rise in dollar exchange rate to naira, pharmaceutical company leaving the country, as well as fuel increase.

“In September, 500 miligram of Glucopage was N1,000 a sachet, but it is now N1,500. A pack of 1,000 miligram of it moved from N4,500 in August to N6,200 in September.

“Everything has gone up, including drugs. All branded drugs are very costly now. Augmentin, which was sold at N700 in August, is now N26,000 and above,” he said.

Way out

 

The president of the PSN, Usifo called for increased efforts towards local drug production, saying, “What is going on might look strange but we are beginning to see the realities of things ourselves. It may be an opportunity for us. We need to do more local production.”

Also, Edegbe said government should make forex available to importers.

Umaru Abdulkareem, the chairman of the PSN, Borno State chapter, advised people to patronise other brands registered by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), as well as check the quality of the foods they eat when they cannot find their recommended brands.

He said, “If you cannot buy those expensive ones like the branded Augmentin, there are other brands that are of lower price you can go for. They are also of good quality but just not the GSK brand.

“Government should also look into encouraging local manufacturing of drugs. If drugs are produced in the country, we can try to control and reduce the exorbitant prices.

“I also advise the government to do their best to control the dollar exchange rate.”

 

He advised Nigerians against patronising quacks or traditionalists for solutions, adding, “If you have an illness, go to the hospital, they would test you and drugs would be prescribed by physicians.” cost of drugs is threatening his commitment to footing the bills.

He said, “Just last year, I used to spend between N10,000 and N12,000 monthly to buy my mother’s medical supplies. But these days, I spend well above N20,000 and it strains my pocket, but I don’t have a choice. I am hoping for more grace to be able to take care of her. The poor woman has no one but me and I am already on the edge.”

A pharmacist at Jochem Pharm, Bashorun Ibadan, disclosed that the increasing prices of pharmaceutical drugs products were alarming, even to business owners. According to him, some patients resort to buying other brands of a prescription just because they cannot afford the ones recommended.

Asked whether this has decreased sales, he said there had been no significant reduction in the level of purchases.

“We only noticed that people tend to go for cheaper brands, but they still buy at the end of the day. You know, medications are a necessity. For instance, we have paracetamol tablets from N500 to N200, N150 and N100 per sachet. What we notice is that more people demand for the cheaper ones, which is fine as this doesn’t in most cases determine the efficacy of those drugs,” he said.

 

Dr Adegboye, a lecturer im the University of Ibadan, who suffers from chronic asthma, said that her drugs were a life priority for her. “I cannot but buy my drugs; they are almost more important than food to me. So, while I complain and grumble about the skyrocketing prices of drugs and medicals, I still have to buy them. I sometimes imagine people who cannot afford the medications but suffer from these ailments. The government has to do something about it. Drugs shouldn’t be expensive like luxuries,” she said.

Mrs Rebecca Gbenga who spoke with our correspondent in Lagos lamented that the price of her drug had almost doubled. She said her eye drops, which she used to buy at the cost of N1,200, now goes for N1,800, adding, “This happened in less than a week and we are not sure it would come down. Go to any pharmacy and find out how much is Cusimolol eye drop today and how much it was two weeks ago. I don’t know what will happen the next time I want to buy it.”

A community pharmacist who identified herself as Mrs Nelly said the manufacturers of drugs increased prices on a daily basis.

“If we bought Gestid, for instance, today at N1,100, the following day it would increase to N1,500, and that is from the distributors. Many Nigerians are not happy, but our hands are tied.

 

I have resorted to traditional medicine – Diabetic patient

A diabetic patient in Edo State who gave his name as Patrick Odiase said he was finding it difficult to manage his aliment.

He said that as result of the high cost of drugs, many patients had resorted to traditional medicine in managing diabetes.

“I have been managing diabetes for 12 years now, but things are difficult because of the high cost of drugs. I have been using the Glucophage brand of metformin and Daonil and they  have been working for me.”

According to him, a packet of Glucopage with two sachet is now selling at N6,500 as against N400.

“In September, I bought the same drug at N2,000 or N2,200, depending on the pharmacy. In October, it skyrocketed from N2,000 to N4,200, and in November, it went up to N6,500,” he said.

 

He said that as a result of the development he had to reduce the drug he is using, especially, multi-vitamin like Biobetic and Biopentin, which is now N5,000 as against N3,000.

Also speaking, another diabetic patient who wished to be identified as Igbinovia, said he was finding it difficult to cope with the rising cost of drugs.

“The cheapest drug for managing diabetes, Dabetimi, has moved from N300 in October to N400 per sachet,” he said.

He said that sometimes he relied on traditional medicine if his drug got exhausted and he had no money to replace them.

He lamented that the rising cost of drugs was really affecting those managing the ailment.

He called on the federal government to subsidise diabetes drugs, saying many have died as a result of the inability to afford the  drugs.

 
 

Speaking on the development, Daniel Edegbe, a pharmacist and the owner of Gina Pharmacy, attributed the development to lack of forex for importers to bring in drugs, rise in dollar exchange rate to naira, pharmaceutical company leaving the country, as well as fuel increase.

“In September, 500 miligram of Glucopage was N1,000 a sachet, but it is now N1,500. A pack of 1,000 miligram of it moved from N4,500 in August to N6,200 in September.

“Everything has gone up, including drugs. All branded drugs are very costly now. Augmentin, which was sold at N700 in August, is now N26,000 and above,” he said.

Way out

The president of the PSN, Usifo called for increased efforts towards local drug production, saying, “What is going on might look strange but we are beginning to see the realities of things ourselves. It may be an opportunity for us. We need to do more local production.”

Also, Edegbe said government should make forex available to importers.

Umaru Abdulkareem, the chairman of the PSN, Borno State chapter, advised people to patronise other brands registered by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), as well as check the quality of the foods they eat when they cannot find their recommended brands.

He said, “If you cannot buy those expensive ones like the branded Augmentin, there are other brands that are of lower price you can go for. They are also of good quality but just not the GSK brand.

“Government should also look into encouraging local manufacturing of drugs. If drugs are produced in the country, we can try to control and reduce the exorbitant prices.

“I also advise the government to do their best to control the dollar exchange rate.”

He advised Nigerians against patronising quacks or traditionalists for solutions, adding, “If you have an illness, go to the hospital, they would test you and drugs would be prescribed by physicians.”

[DailyTrust]

 

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