Cost of drugs skyrockets, as patients result to local herbs
…Experts worry, propose urgent solutions…
…..Patients lament, skip medications…
In Nigeria, falling sick can be challenging in normal times but seeking treatment is currently a double blow as the financial implication has become increasingly unbearable for many Nigerians.
The cost of basic drugs, such as antibiotics, analgesics, anti-diabetics, and key medications for chronic conditions, has doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled in some instances, leaving many patients struggling to access the healthcare they desperately need.
The alarming rise in drug prices, its impact on healthcare access, and the urgent need for solutions have become overriding to ensure that falling sick does not become a financial death sentence.
Among factors contributing to the increase in drug prices are rising production costs, delays in global supply chains and local supply challenges, as well as the declining value of the naira.
Hardest hit by the exponential surge in prices of drugs are the poor, notably those on the minimum wage and below, those without steady sources of income, and particularly those without reliable health insurance.
Findings from a recent survey by SB Morgen showed that over the last four years, the prices of different categories of paracetamol-based analgesics, common cold medicines, such as Actifed, and antibiotics, and antimalarials, rose dramatically.
The report found out that between 2022 and 2023, Ampiclox and Amoxil recorded 340 per cent and over 400 per cent increases respectively, while antimalarials such as Lonart DS recorded cost and selling price increases of 110 per cent and 92.3 per cent respectively between 2019 and 2023.
From investigation, the prices of all routine drugs in Nigeria have gone up astronomically. The most affected categories include genuine antibiotics, analgesics, anti-malarials and a number of prescription and specialized drugs.
A random check of prices in some pharmacies and in the open market in Lagos revealed that prices of all the popular genuine brands of antibiotics, including Ciprofloxaxin, Azithromycin, Amoxil, Ampiclox and Augmentin, have gone up by 50 – 150 per cent since the beginning of the new year.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation, WHO, backed by the Nigeria Association of Psychiatrists, reveal that an estimated 20 per cent of Nigerians suffer from mental health issues, but access to treatment is severely limited.
The consequences of the price hike are serious, with many Nigerians skipping doses, rationing medication, or even abandoning treatment altogether due to the prohibitive costs, as patients are now seen patronizing herbal sellers to treat themselves because of high cost of drugs.
Experts say the consequences of this development could be devastating and could lead to undesirable complications, delayed diagnoses, and even preventable deaths.
The lack of insurance coverage is also there. Most health insurance plans in Nigeria do not cover chronic ailments comprehensively. So in most cases, the patient has to pay out of pocket.
Expressing concern for the well-being of Nigerians, health watchers are calling for urgent action to address the issue of high drug prices, even as they urge the government to prioritise healthcare accessibility, intervene in implementing price controls, support local drug production, and strengthen public healthcare infrastructure.
Among solutions proposed include improving access to affordable health insurance, encouraging the use of safe and effective generic drugs to reduce costs, educating communities about the issue and advocating policy changes.