By Olakunle Olafioye

As the harsh economic condition of the country bites harder, most homes and families are unsettled as they add major health challenges to their woes. 


Indeed, the soaring cost of major essential drugs in the country is a major source of apprehension to many whose survival depends partly on medications.

One of them, Aderonke Ibrahim, an asthmatic patient, says she depends on Ventolin inhaler whenever she is down with the bout of the ailment. 

She told Sunday Sun that buying the drug now is no longer easy. “At times the need to buy it always comes at periods when I have other pressing and urgent needs to meet. At such times I only have two options: buy the drug and stay alive or forgo it and put your life in danger,” she declared.

Until recently, Aderonke disclosed that Ventolin Inhaler was sold for N4,000, but added that the price has suddenly jumped to N15,500, an increase of almost 300 per cent. 

“I was devastated when I got to the pharmacy and realized that the price of Ventolin Inhaler had risen astronomically.  But what can I do in such a situation, I didn’t have any choice, but to look for money by all means to buy it,” she said rather dejectedly.

The sad reality of the astronomical increase in the prices of essential pharmaceutical drugs is better felt at pharmaceutical stores and hospitals in the country. An elderly woman made an emotional spectacle of the outrageous rise in prices of essential pharmaceutical drugs in the penultimate Tuesday when she burst into tears at one of the cluster of pharmaceutical stores at Kola, in Alagbado area of Lagos State. 

The elderly woman, it was gathered had gone to one of the pharmacies to procure a particular drug, which she claimed she bought for N8,000 the last time she went to the store. However, on getting to the drug store she was told that the price of the drug had jumped to N20,000.

The woman said that she went to two other pharmacies around the area, but the cheapest amount the drug was sold for was N19, 350. 

Her words: “The last time I bought it, it was N8,000. Of course, I am aware that the prices of goods and services are on the rise. That was why I came with additional N3,000, believing that by now the price cannot exceed N11, 000, but they said it is now N20, 000.”

A pharmacist, Mr Bright Ikechukwu, confirmed to Sunday Sun that the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs has continued to scare people in need of drugs away as the majority of them leave without buying their drugs. 

“Before you came in, about three or four people had come in to buy some essential drugs, but they turned back without buying them. Of course, it may be that they went elsewhere to see if they would get the drugs cheaper at other places, there are some who might resolve to explore other unorthodox options, which is quite dangerous,” he reasoned.

Findings by Sunday Sun at some government hospitals in Lagos and Ogun State equally revealed that the rising cost of drugs is a major source of concern to both the medical personnel and the patients. 

A medical doctor at Ota General Hospital, Onipanu, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that doctors are sometimes in dilemma when prescribing drugs for their patients. 

“The joy of every physician is to see their patients improve when they return on their next appointment date. But in a situation where patients cannot afford to buy the drugs their doctors prescribed there is no magic the doctors can perform to bring health to such patients. 

“Personally, I have noticed that a couple of patients do not return on their next appointment date because they have not been able to purchase the drugs prescribed for them earlier. This is very dangerous. Anybody who is sick should realise that his or her health deserves priority attention before any other needs,” the doctor said.

Apart from drugs, the costs of running medical tests is another major source of concern for people who need to undergo tests. 

For example, Sunday Sun gathered that a blood sugar test, which used to cost around N1,000 before now has risen to N1,500 at some laboratories. 

This, according to a laboratory technician, Mrs Esther Gbolahan, is due to the rising costs of equipment and materials used in carrying out the tests.

“Before now basic tests which include FSB, widal, M.P and PCV, which used to cost less than N5,000 are now done for almost N7,500. The implication of the increase in the costs of these tests is that it will further drive the people away from carrying out the tests recommended for them. 

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“The majority of our people do not believe in medical tests until their conditions become very bad. Their first response to any medical discomfort they feel in their system is to take anti-malaria drugs. It is only when the discomfort persists or worsens that they would deem it necessary to seek medical assistance. And I think the situation is about to get worse unless the government weighs into the situation to find a solution to rising costs of pharmaceuticals,” she said.  

The immediate past Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Lagos Council, Gbolagade Iyiola, noted that the escalating prices of medicines in Nigeria present significant challenges for individuals grappling with health issues in the country. 

He blamed the development on three major factors of the nation’s over-dependence on imported drugs, exchange rate crisis, as well as the departure of major pharmaceutical companies from the country. 

His words: “This issue (rising cost of medicines) is compounded by the country’s over-reliance on imported drugs and currency fluctuations, such as the recent continuous rise in the dollar to naira exchange rate. 

“Moreover, the departure of major pharmaceutical multinational corporations from Nigeria further exacerbated the situation, limiting access to vital medications and driving up prices.”

Iyiola advised the government to prioritize preventive medicines through public health initiatives. 

“The government should introduce public health campaigns to focus on preventive care and lifestyle adjustments in order to mitigate the need for pharmaceutical interventions, thereby easing financial burdens on individuals,” he advised. 

As for those who are already burdened by high medicines costs, the ex-Lagos PSN chairman called on the Federal Government to put in place measures that would help in boosting local production of medicines, promotion of herbal medicines, as well as broadening access to insurance coverage by the masses. 

“Encouraging and bolstering local pharmaceutical manufacturing can reduce dependence on imports, thus slashing costs by eliminating import expenses and currency risks.

 “Advocating for traditional and herbal medicine options offers cost-effective alternatives for specific health conditions, lessening reliance on overpriced pharmaceutical drugs. 

“Although, caution must be exercised in embracing this because the herbal remedies market has been hijacked by charlatans who are marauding pharmaceutical molecules as herbal preparation like the recently reported Coco Samba, a purported herbal products with fake NAFDAC registration number, but containing overdose of Sildenafil, a pharmaceutical molecule.

“Efforts should be geared towards broadening access to health insurance coverage that can assist individuals in managing the financial strain of pharmaceutical expenses by providing support with medication costs,” he suggested.

Speaking on strategies the government can employ in tackling the escalating pharmaceutical costs and enhancing accessibility for Nigerians contending with health challenges, Gbolagade said that the government can boost investment in the local pharmaceutical industry by providing assistance to local manufacturers to augment production capacity and quality standard. 

This, he noted, would go a long way in boosting the availability and affordability of essential medication.

He also advised the government to put in place measures to stabilise exchange rate and foster a favourable business environment to attract foreign pharmaceutical companies back to Nigeria, saying “in addition to these, the government through the banks must make single digit credit available to pharmaceutical manufacturer to boost their working capital and streamline regulatory processes, as well as enforcing stringent standards for both locally produced and imported drugs to instill confidence in the pharmaceutical sector and safeguard consumers.

“The government can ease the burden of rising costs of medicines on Nigerians with health challenges and enhance access to essential medications for all citizens through these measures.” 

Meanwhile the Federal Government has hinted that plans are underway to stem the rising cost of drugs and pharmaceutical products in the country. 

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Muhammed Ali Pate, disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja recently.

Speaking on the progress recorded in the health sector under President Bola Tinubu’s administration, the minister said that despite the departure of multinational companies from the country, the government is committed to reducing the cost of drugs and pharmaceutical products.

He revealed that an Executive Order by President Tinubu to significantly reduce the cost of drugs and pharmaceutical products in the country was on the way. 

“The rising cost of pharmaceuticals is a pressing concern, and we are taking decisive action to address this issue. An Executive Order will soon be issued to curb escalating drug prices in the short term, while our mid to long-term goal involves the domestication of imported drugs within the next three years, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade,” he said.

He disclosed that as part of efforts to fortify the pharmaceutical infrastructure across the country, the Federal Government initiated the construction of pharmaceutical-grade warehouses in 21 states in collaboration with the Drug Management Agencies.