• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Hypertension: Nigerians spend N54,750 on drug therapy


To say that hypertension has become common place in Nigeria is not far from the truth. Popularly known as a silent killer, hypertension is the number one risk factor for Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) in sub-Saharan Africa. With this disease condition emerging as a major threat to human existence, notable Nigerians lose their lives within the twinkle of an eye due to heart attack.

While this disease condition has assumed an epidemic dimension, there is an enormous financial burden associated with the disease as treatment of hypertension requires an investment over many years to ensure disease-free years among those affected.

BusinessDay investigations show that patients with this condition are placed on a minimum of one to three drug therapies, depending on the severity of the disease condition. With the cost of most anti-hypertensive drugs ranging from N24 to N150 per therapy, a minimum of N54,750 ($342.2) is spent annually on a single drug therapy, aside indirect costs, in a country where millions live on less than a dollar a day.

In an interview with Emmanuel Ekunno, managing director, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals, said that hypertension is a public health concern as youths in their early 30s are prone to hypertension, a situation which not only reduces life expectancy but threatens the nation’s economic life since the productive part of the population is at risk.

Though the demographics of lives lost is not readily apparent, Ekunno stated that the epidemic is fuelled by a combination of risk factors such as tobacco use, increased stress, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and harmful alcohol use even as cases of hypertension are expected to rise as population ages.

“Apart from the low level of awareness of hypertension, to reduce the consequences, there is the need to make the drugs available. That is why we are championing for its availability and the slash in the price. Most anti-hypertensive drugs sell within the range of N24 to N150 per therapy.

“As a company, we have decided to slash the price of Neimeth anti-hypertensive drugs by 50%. We also call on other pharmaceutical firms to follow suit as this would lead in drastic reduction of anti-hypertensive drugs as is the case with the sale of telecommunication lines in the country,” Ekunno said.

Kingsley Akinroye, executive director, Nigerian Heart Foundation, stated that the nation’s health system offers diagnosis and treatment only to those who pay for it. Akinroye noted that even when people do go for medical check-ups, diagnosis of such chronic conditions can be unreliable at primary health levels.

“Hypertension actually caused a lot of deaths among Nigerians from it complications in terms of management. Making correct diagnosis to hypertension is essential to treatment. Majority of Nigerians are not aware of their hypertension status. Only very few of them that initiate anti -hypertension continue with their drugs. Among those who continue, their control is inadequate,” Akinroye added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) state hypertension is the leading cause of CVD worldwide, contributing about 50 percent of all CVD with the prevalence of hypertension in Nigeria put at between 20-25 percent of the population.

With the continued prevalence of hypertension, adopting five out of the nine UN targets will drastically reduce deaths caused by hypertension and its related complications in Nigeria and Africa at large. Medical experts have tasked Nigerians to observe regular medical check-ups even as they charge government to develop standards of care, policies and cost effective case management for CVDs.