The price of pharmaceutical drugs has risen almost tenfold in Nigeria in the past few months, forcing patients to cut their dose or turn to traditional alternatives, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Pharmaceutical industry officials said the plunge in the value of the naira after the removal of currency controls in June has sent the prices of new stocks rocketing.
The departure of British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline after increased local competition and imports from India and China was also adding to the woes.
“I used to buy three medicines prescribed to me, but now I have reduced them to two, which are penicillin and aminophylline,” said Sodiq Ajibade.
Research firm Statista says only 3% of Nigerians have health insurance, meaning patients must find the money themselves to buy medication.
The Ministry of Health and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) did not respond to requests for comment.
Cyril Usifoh, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, said most drugs were imported, while local makers relied on imports for pharmaceutical ingredients to produce medicines.
The naira has lost half its value since June, raising the price of everything from painkillers to medicines for chronic diseases.
A Seretide asthma inhaler manufactured by GSK, for example, cost up to 8,000 naira ($9.42) in April but now retails for up to 70,000 naira. Antibiotics like Augmentin cost as much as 25,000 naira, up from 4,500 naira in July.
“I am particularly worried about things like cancer drugs, anti-hypertensive drugs, and diabetic drugs. The price has been astronomical,” said Usifoh.
“If you have two or three medicines on your prescription, you may find that you don’t have enough money to buy all of them.”
Faced with such high costs, 43-year-old Kano farmer Ubaidullah Nuhu Yusuf said he was resorting to traditional cures.
“By boiling guava and pawpaw leaves and inhaling the steam, this has proven effective in curing malaria and typhoid since affording an injection and buying the medicines is a problem,” he said.