As Nigeria joins the global community on Monday to mark the 2022 World Diabetes Day, diabetes patients have raised the alarm that the soaring prices of drugs and food items in the country are exposing them to the risk of complications. They lamented that they can no longer afford the medications that they require daily to live. ANGELA ONWUZOO reports
A 64-year-old businesswoman, Mrs. Abosede Habeeb is a diabetes patient and has been managing the health condition for over 17 years without complications.
But from January this year, Mrs. Habeeb’s condition began to degenerate owing to her inability to afford her medications, and monitoring devices. She was also finding it more difficult to have access to an experienced endocrinologist.
The mother of three told our correspondent that she had resorted to managing her condition with concoctions and traditional medicine. She blamed her woes on the harsh economic situation in the country.
The Kogi State indigene who is already battling a foot ulcer said she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2004.
She lamented that her condition worsened since she could no longer afford her routine medication.
Besides medication, the sexagenarian is not on a special diet anymore, noting that she cannot afford it.
Sharing her plight with PUNCH HealthWise, Mrs. Abosede who is also battling hypertension said, “Diabetes test strips are so expensive now, the drugs are out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians like me.
“I have been managing the condition well since I was diagnosed with it in October 2004. I don’t miss my drugs. But since the beginning of the year when prices of drugs and food items skyrocketed, I no longer take my medications as prescribed by my doctor because I can’t afford them anymore.
“I use about seven different medications. A tablet that was sold for N3,000 in 2021, was sold for N5,000 in January this year. As we speak, the same tablet is now sold for N8,000. Can you see the difference? This is for just one tablet.
“Now, another drug that I used to buy for 19,000 is now sold for N25,000. A test trip that I used to buy for N4,000 is now N7,500. Besides drugs, food is also a problem.”
She went on, “The cereals, plantain, vegetables, fish and other appropriate foods that I need to manage the condition are also expensive. Things are really tough for me. I have decided to look for alternatives.
Diabetic patients dying needlessly
“My brother brought me one native concoction from Kabba that I have been using to manage my health condition for a while now. I was also introduced to a local herb by my neighbour.
“However, I am not seeing much improvement in my condition compared to when I was using orthodox medicine prescribed by my doctor. In August this year, I developed a leg ulcer. Since then, my health has continued to worsen due to poor management.
“When I was buying my drugs, I had no complications. My children are trying as much as they can but the drugs are too expensive.
“We have an association of people living with diabetes. I can tell you that I am not the only one suffering. A lot of diabetic patients are not only suffering, but they are also dying needlessly, especially those that do not have any support. I thank God for my children. The government should do something about this drug hike.”
Drug hike will lead to more complications-Experts
Experts say the cost of diabetes drugs is gradually getting out of reach of many patients, especially low-income earners.
A professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Olufemi Fasanmade, told PUNCH HealthWise in an exclusive interview that the soaring cost of drugs would lead to more diabetes complications.
The endocrinologist noted that it is dangerous for diabetic patients to discontinue their drugs, warning that irregular use of medications often leads to several complications such as blindness, stroke, kidney failure, heart attacks, and lower extremity amputation
The professor stated that the way to tackle the problem was to enforce mandatory health insurance so that patients could get their drugs at little or no price.
“If more people are covered by the National Health Insurance Authority and others get their private health insurance, the high cost of drugs and cost of complications can be drastically reduced. Unfortunately, only five to eight per cent of Nigerians have any form of health insurance,” Prof. Fasanmade said.
The World Health Organisation says there are two main forms of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes, WHO said, typically make none of their own insulin and therefore require insulin injections for survival. People with type 2 diabetes, the form that comprises some 90 per cent of all cases, usually produce their own insulin, but not enough or they are unable to use it properly.
Why World Diabetes Day?
World Diabetes Day is celebrated every year on November 14, according to the WHO.
The day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of diabetes as a global public health issue and educate the people about what needs to be done, collectively and individually, for better prevention, diagnosis, and management of the condition.
The theme for the 2022 commemoration ‘access to diabetes care’ further underpins the importance of proper diabetes management.
Getting insulin now tough
A father of a 12-year -old boy with Type 1 diabetes, Mr. Iranloye Abiodun, told our correspondent that it has been tough getting the insulin that the son requires daily to live.
Abiodun, who is a ‘Keke’ rider, said, “life has not been easy for him since my boy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five years ago when he was just seven years old.
“The cost of insulin is very high and he must take it every day for life. You also have to buy a glucometer to monitor the sugar level at all times; and also test strips, syringes, and needles.
“Honestly, having a child who is living with diabetes is traumatising because managing the condition comes with a lot of stress, both on the child and the family.
An engineer, Abdulwahab Dauda, who has been living with diabetes for over 30 years, told PUNCH HealthWise that only a few people with the condition could afford medication presently.