• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Nigerians decry increase in prices of medications

Drug makers yet to leverage new executive order on uncertainty

Nigerians have continued to lament the increasing prices of drugs and called for an intervention from the Federal Government.

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), who spoke to NAN in Abuja on Sunday, said the situation has left millions of citizens helpless.

Prices of many prescribed and over-the-counter medications have witnessed a steady increase, making these drugs unaffordable and unavailable. The price increase had heightened by the exit of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria plc in August 2023 and Sanofi pharmaceutical multinational in November 2023 from Nigeria.

Read also: Nigerians resort to harmful alternatives as cost of drugs spike

In one of the big pharmacies visited by NAN, Augmentin 625mg and 1g were sold for N12,300 and N13,300, respectively, as against N3,000 to N5,000, while Amoxil 500mg is sold N4,060.

Ventolin inhaler is sold at N8,870 as against N2,000, while Seretide inhaler goes for N31,950 as against N8,000.

Stella Ekundayo, a businesswoman and mother of three, said the increasing prices of drugs had become unbearable just like the increase in food prices.

Ekundayo said malaria drugs and paracetamol had become so expensive and called on the government to intervene.

“One card of paracetamol is now selling for N300 to N400. How can we spend that much for just paracetamol which used to be N50 to N100? Antimalarial drugs have also increased.

“I bought Coartem anti-malarial drug for N6,100 as against N3,000 plus it was being sold in the past. People can no longer afford common paracetamol.

“Food items have become very expensive, and drugs too are very expensive. How are Nigerians going to survive?

“This is a serious issue and the government needs to do something fast about it because Nigerians are suffering.

Amina Abdullahi, a school teacher, said the hike in drug prices needed to be addressed by the government as it was no longer sustainable.

“I am an ulcer patient and some of the drugs I take have increased by over 100 percent in a few months. For instance, gestid used to be N400, but it is now selling at N1,000.

“Omeprazole now sells for between N1,000 to N5,000 depending on the brand as against N500 in the past for the cheapest brand.

Read also: Calls for specialised, locally-made drugs grow as cost bites

“My salary is barely enough to meet my needs, sometimes I have to do without these drugs because I need to buy food, pay for transport, and meet other household needs.

“I am calling on the government to look into this issue. Nigerians are dying because they cannot afford to buy medication, some have resorted to herbal concoctions which can also have side effects if not taken properly.”

Tola Bode, a businessman, said the increase in drugs, especially high-blood pressure drugs was alarming.

“I bought Exforge in December 2023 at N26,000, currently it is selling for N32,000. Only God knows how much it will be next month.

“This continuous increase is not sustainable because these are drugs I take every day and we know how the economy is right now, especially for business people.

“There needs to be concrete steps by the government to address this issue, he said.”

Rachael Abujah, vice president, the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, said the increase in medication costs posed challenges for individuals, especially children suffering from ailments like asthma.

“A Seretide asthma inhaler manufactured by GSK, for example, cost about N8,000 in April 2023 but now retails for N70,000. Anti-biotics like Augmentin cost as much as N25,000 as against N4,500 in July 2023.

“How can Nigerians sustain this enormous increase, people are suffering. A father had to decide between buying an asthma inhaler for his child or paying the child’s school fees.

“Why should Nigerians be made to make such difficult choices, more deaths will occur because people can no longer afford to buy drugs. Immediate action must be taken by the government at all levels to address this crisis.”

Abujah said findings had shown that the increase in drug prices had also led people to buy expired drugs unknown to them because they were sold at a cheaper rate.

“Three people bought expired drugs because they got it cheaper from the drug store, however, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is investigating these cases,” she said.

Following the astronomical increases in prices of drugs, some residents of the FCT have resorted to herbal concoctions commonly referred to as “Agbo” to treat various illnesses.

Agbo is made by combining different herbs, roots, and plants that are believed to have medicinal properties.

Read also: Nigerians want govt to subsidise cancer drugs as prices skyrocket

Wasiu Ahmed, a vulcaniser, said: “Why should I go and spend money that I do not even have to buy medicine from a chemist when I can take agbo (local concoction).

Sisi Ayo, an agbo seller who has been in the business for a while, said she got new customers regularly, both educated and uneducated people.

“Some people do not have money to buy drugs from the pharmacy when they are sick, so they patronise me.

In fact, in recent times, my patronage has more than doubled.

“My customers do ask me to mix herbs for them to treat body pains, aches, malaria or typhoid fever, “jedijedi/opa eyin” (hemorrhoids), “ale” (libido booster) and even ulcer.”

Pharmacist Jelili Kilani, a deputy director, pharmacy department, at National Hospital Abuja, attributed the increasing cost of medication to the high cost of foreign exchange and the cost of production for locally made drugs.

“The bureaucracy involved before getting approval for the supply of drugs also affects the price and availability but the major reason prices have gone up is because most of these drugs are imported.