LAGOS, Dec 14 – Sodiq Ajibade, a 29-year-old asthma sufferer in Lagos, was forced to leave a pharmacy without a vital medication due to the skyrocketing prices of drugs in Nigeria. Over the past few months, the cost of certain medicines has surged nearly tenfold, compelling patients like Ajibade to either reduce their dosage or seek alternative, traditional remedies. This alarming trend is attributed to the sharp depreciation of the naira following the removal of currency controls in June, causing pharmaceutical costs to soar.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
British pharmaceutical giant GSK (GSK.L) exacerbates the situation by transitioning from GSK-controlled local operations to a third-party direct distribution model. However, GSK denies any contribution to the prevailing issues. Ajibade, expressing his struggle, mentioned, “I used to buy three prescribed medicines, but now I have reduced to two – penicillin and aminophylline.”
With only 3% of Nigerians covered by health insurance, patients must bear the financial burden of purchasing medications themselves. Both Nigeria’s health ministry and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control remained unresponsive to requests for comments.
GSK attributes its challenges to foreign currency shortages, affecting the consistent supply of medicines and vaccines, leading to stockouts. A GSK spokesperson clarified, “The price increases we are seeing in Nigeria are not as a result of the decision to change the business model, and we regret that market forces outside our control have impacted the price of remaining stock in the market.”
Cyril Usifoh, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, highlighted the heavy reliance on imports for drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients, further complicating the situation. The naira’s devaluation has led to significant price hikes across various medications, including a GSK-manufactured Seretide asthma inhaler, which surged from 8,000 naira ($9.42) in April to 70,000 naira.
Concerns deepen as critical medications for conditions such as cancer, hypertension, and diabetes witness astronomical price increases, leaving many patients unable to afford their complete prescriptions. Faced with exorbitant costs, individuals like 43-year-old Kano farmer Ubaidullah Nuhu Yusuf are turning to traditional remedies, such as boiling guava and pawpaw leaves, as a cost-effective alternative to combat illnesses like malaria and typhoid.