World Diabetes Day: Expert appeals to FG on responsible medicine pricing

A family physician, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, has appealed to the Federal Government to ensure responsible pricing mechanism of life saving medicine to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in the country.

Sodipo, Head, Family Medicine Department, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.

He made the call in commemoration of the World Diabetes Day celebrated annually on Nov. 14, to raise awareness of the growing burden of diabetes, and strategies to prevent and manage the threat.

This year’s theme is: “Access to diabetes care”, highlighting the importance of prevention and response efforts.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Sodipo, former Chairman, Medical Guild, said there should be a strategic plan for management of chronic medical conditions, especially diabetes which was a global public health issue and prevalent in the country.

“We need to have a situation similar to what’s done in other countries, where there’s a cap on the price of essential life saving medicine.

“Definitely, companies will make profit but the government should wade in and ensure that there’s no exploitation of the patients just like during COVID-19 when medical items that were cheap suddenly became outrageously expensive because of an increased demand.

“That’s what we are seeing now because some of the big pharmaceutical companies are leaving Nigeria and some of the few with access to bring in the drugs are doing so at exorbitant prices.

“Now, those that need these medications, like diabetes drugs, are not getting it. It’s worrisome, especially at this time,” Sodipo said.

Sodipo acknowledged that most medications are produced abroad, thus exposed to the intricacies of foreign exchange fluctuations, stressing that responsible pricing would reduce morbidity and mortality.

“Many patients haven’t been able to manage their glucose level properly, some don’t have access to the newer medications that help to prevent complications from the disease.

“If we could subsidise fuel in the past, then the government should take steps to ensure access to medicines, especially for the most vulnerable citizens,” he said.

He stressed that diabetes was a health condition that required a multidisciplinary approach in its management, thus called for collaboration between the government and private sector in achieving a patient-centred pricing mechanism.

Sodipo appealed to the government to support pharmaceutical companies with funding and favourable macroeconomic policies to enhance local medicine production.

The expert urged the three levels of governments to increase health sector financing and ensure full release of budgetary allocation to the sector.

“Government should assist vulnerable type 1 diabetes patients, of whom a large percentage are young, rely on their parents for treatment costs, especially insulin.

“Type 2 diabetes patients are also increasing due to lifestyle changes and aging population. Some patients are lucky that while working, they have some sort of insurance from their employers.

“Once they retire, they lose these benefits and their care becomes a challenge, increasing their risk of dying early,” he said.

Sodipo therefore underscores the need to strengthen health insurance by making it realistic and practical.

“Many health insurances exist on paper, but when you want to access care, you can’t get the quality drugs needed by people to survive diabetes.

“Patients need medications like insulin, newer medications that protect kidney, heart; however, they are unable to get them because they are beyond the scope of the purported health insurance they have,” he said.

According to him, the cost of glucometer should be covered by health insurance to enable diabetics monitor their blood sugar level regularly.

Sodipo emphasised that hospitals should be upscaled with the latest tools to enhance diagnosis and care of diabetes and other chronic medical conditions.

“A diabetes patient must have access to an ophthalmologist for their eyes, renal function tests for their kidney, checks on their hand and foot for neuropathy.

“However, what we have in most hospitals are fragmented care, patients are referred to two or three centres to get these services.

“With the increasing cost of transport and the fact that many of these patients are old and getting around for many isn’t easy, patient’s access and compliance to treatment is not optimal,” he said.

He stressed the importance of early diagnosis through screening to prevent complications from type 2 diabetes, advised patients to take their medication regularly and avoid traditional medicines that may cause kidney related complications.

Sodipo emphasised that increased access to diabetes education among the populace was critical to the prevention and management of the disease.

Data from the World Health Organisation showed that 24 million adults are currently living with diabetes, with that number predicted to increase to 55 million by 2045.

In 2021, diabetes mellitus took the lives of 416,000 people in Africa and is forecast to become one of the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030. (NAN)


-November 13, 2023 @ 13:25 GMT |