Pharmacists warn on consequences of scarcity of drugs
Leading pharmacists in Kwara State have expressed concerns over high costs of essential orthodox drugs in the country. They warned that unless the situation is reversed, Nigeria might face hard times in saving the lives of majority her population, who depend on drugs for survival.
Chairman of the state’s council of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Francis Olayiwola, his counterpart at Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Samuel Babatunde and Chief Abdulmojeed Oderinde, in separate interviews with The Guardian in Ilorin, said the escalating costs of drugs could lead to out of stock situations of most of the essential drugs.
Although Olayiwola, Babatunde and Oderinde believe that the development is a consequence of global economic recession. They canvassed prompt “Nigerian solutions” to halt the ugly trend.
Olayiwola said, “This high cost of drugs in Nigeria is not a deliberate design against pharmaceutical industry, it is a reaction to the global economic hardship bedeviling the whole countries of the world. The drop in exchange rates of the naira has put many local manufacturers of drugs in debts. They could not just afford the black market rate of a 1$ to N400. By simple economic theory it will mean that the cheapest drug in the country will sell for over N400.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria should give priority to the pharmaceutical companies to reduce the high cost of manufacturing and purchasing of drugs in Nigeria. Many Nigerians in needs of essential drugs are poor. Take for instance ‘Insuling’, for the management of a particular type of ‘diabetes’, which cost about N1, 200 will soon go as high as N6, 000. Besides, companies that would not change prices more than one time in a year had changed prices of their products by at least three times this year. Shelves and stores are empty, something drastic must be done because it is not all about business here but life.”
Reacting to whether local herbal practice could serve a better alternative to the orthodox medicine, the local PSN leader said many age long drugs have no alternatives, just as he blamed relevant authorities in the country for allegedly ignoring the need to develop the nation’s traditional medicine over the years.
He noted, “Many drugs have no alternative. We have refused as a nation to develop our own traditional methods of producing drugs. Any attempt to hurriedly develop that now will boomerang. Even herbal packages are imported before we turn them into proper measures. But the truth is that we can ban importation of rice, but certainly not that of drugs.”
For Babatunde, “it is not only drugs that are costly but everything. Essentially, the strength of naira against dollar or other foreign currencies is the problem. Most of imported materials for drugs manufacturing today are very costly and definitely, it will translate into high cost of drugs when completed. So, as a first measure, we need to stabilise naira to dollar’s ratio.
“Some local manufacturers of drugs are running out of production due to the sudden rise in the cost of importation of raw materials. It is a pity that we still import sugar despite the vast arable land God has endowed us with, as a nation. If you look at the inflationary rate today it is alarming. For instance, we bought a drug at the rate of N20 this week and after about seven days, the same drug sold for N100. The health of many patients is failing just as we are daily recording many casualties because people can’t afford the cost of essential drugs.”
While lamenting the heavy loss of job opportunities and accumulated unpaid salaries and allowances of workers occasioned by poor economy, he said patients now ration the usage of drugs leading to therapeutic failure.
Besides, he blamed the procedures for procuring ‘Orphan Drugs’ in Nigeria like anti-rabies and anti-snakes “which have no credible alternatives”, for not being allegedly registered by NAFDAC, adding, “yet we need them, we will therefore require a well structured procedure to procure them.”
Babatunde, like Olayiwola regretted the slow pace of herbal medicine development in Nigeria, especially the absence of regulatory sector for its preparations, sales and consumption.
He noted, “There is no body regulating herbal sector in Nigeria even though the Traditional Council should do that. We on daily basis see the medicines being sold on the streets, and people in large numbers often patronise the vendors or practitioners. We need to be careful of the tendencies to consume overdose of such herbs or roots, to avoid kidney failure. Besides, under usage of drugs have no therapeutic value. Please herbal medicine is good, especially when it is well packaged and regulated. In China for instance, patients now choose between treatment by either orthodox drugs or herbs. The two have been regulated to be safe in such a country. Nigeria can understudy this and introduce same into our health sector.”
For Oderinde, the Federal Government should develop its petrochemical industries to locally manufacture drugs and simultaneously provide jobs for millions of Nigerians in dire needs of employment opportunities.
He expressed concerns over the way some drugs are becoming difficult to come by in the recent time with a warning, “if nothing is consciously done to bring down the price, by this time next year many patients will not get some drugs to buy again.”
Listing some of the effects of the high costs of drugs he said: “We must pay manufacturers like cash and carry thing, to be able to procure some drugs today. Besides, prices have gone beyond reach. Poor masses are dying on regular basis because those who should take drugs regularly can no longer afford it. Again, 100 percent stock has reduced to 50 per cent. But what we do for some patients now is to dispense best generic drugs that are cheaper and as well effective. We intend to sustain this practice until Nigerian system changes for better. It is so sad today that the money the government could have used to procure drugs are now being used to fight crimes.”
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