Cross River: Patients lament over high cost of drugs
The Guardian observed that essential drugs needed for high blood pressure, cancer and others are not only expensive, but also scarce.
A patient in the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), Mr. Patrick Udo said: “For a week plus now, I have been in this hospital, but most of the drugs prescribed for me are got outside. In some cases, I don’t even get some of them. The drugs are extremely expensive. You can imagine ordinary malaria drug I used to buy at N300, is now selling for N500, even though there are some that are as much as N1500 and I cannot afford it.”
Commenting on the scarcity of drugs and the high cost, a community pharmacist and Managing Director of Karmel Pharmaceutical Company Limited, based in Calabar, Mr. Cyril Nwagwu, said: “Presently, we are experiencing shortages in supply of drugs and other medical equipment and consumables. This is because of the scarcity of foreign exchange, because of the drugs used in the country at the moment, are imported. Even the little manufacturing activities that are going on locally, is not enough, since the raw materials for production activities are imported from other countries. So, this has affected the supply chain. At the moment, the pharmaceutical subsector is not enjoying any special privilege in terms of foreign exchange allocation and that has affected the supply of drugs.”
On what the country needs to do to be self-sufficient in drug production, he said: “The only answer to it, is for research activities to go on, so
that the raw materials presently being imported can be sourced locally. And if they are sourced locally, I believe that we can come out of the problem. Research is something that is ongoing, probably slow, as far as our environment is concerned. But I believe that the little that has been done, if implemented, I think it will
help reduce the demand for foreign exchange, in order to make drugs on our own.
“To produce drugs, it is of two sides, that is the drug itself, which is the chemical or the molecule that has the action on the organ of tissues. Then there is the other non-drug component, which we call the estrogen and we have them here in our country. There are things like starch, soluble tar and the rest of them. But the truth of the matter is that we need to refine them further, to bring them to what we call the pharmaceutical grade, and it is only when we refine them and bring them to this grade that we can now use them in drug production. So, if at least we can face that area and make sure that we don’t import things like starch, things like tar, which are available all over and then go ahead and refine and process them to a point where we now make them pharmaceutically acceptable, then that is a convenient way to come in. Later on, one can always have something like petro chemical industry and then we have the petroleum industry and the carbon back bone for production of these chemicals. So, all what we need to do, is to ask the petro-chemical industry to give us what we want and we go ahead to produce and be self sufficient. That is the only way to go”.
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