-As Nigerians Join Global Community to Mark World Diabetes Day 2021
Diabetes is a deadly disease that affects about 24 million Africans, among whom are 6 million Nigerians, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) latest statistics. It’s so bad that it ravages virtually all organs of the body, starting from loss of vision to dental problem, then kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, lower limb amputation, sexual dysfunction, among others, when not properly controlled. It is described as one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century.
This explains why diabetics have taken to the media to secure government’s attention in arresting their present predicament, as a good number of them are groaning under the heavy inflation in the country, which they said has financially incapacitated them from obtaining their anti-diabetes drugs and devices, which in turn could worsen their situation without proper access.
Pharmanewsonline interaction with some of these patients shows that there is a looming diabetes epidemic in the country, if the government does not swiftly swing to action regarding making access to diabetes medicines easier and cheaper for sufferers, as most of them are no longer adhering to their medications, due to increase in cost of pharmaceutical products.
Our findings align well with the views of Diabetes Control Media Advocacy Initiative (DICOMA) a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which asserted that people living with diabetes are among the worst hit by the current inflation in the country, as many are unable to take their medications or follow necessary guidelines and routines to keep the disease in check. The COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant disruption it created, have also contributed negatively to this, as many bread winners lost jobs with the economic downturn.
I can’t afford daily test again due to hike in strips price- Obikoya
The story of Wale Obikoya, a 35-year-old male, who inherited the condition from his late father, is really pathetic. He told us how he has stopped checking his blood sugar regularly due to the hike in price of testing strips, which rose from N3,500 to N7000. Despite his deteriorating health condition, he still found it difficult to afford the device, talk less of medications, as he is being owed by his employers.
“I am a part time teacher by profession and I teach in different private schools, but it hasn’t been easy coping financially, because I have a family of four, myself, wife and two children to cater for with my meagre salary. The worst of it is that my school proprietors owe me, thus, affording my medications and devices is a huge challenge for me at the moment. Would appreciate if government can reduce the tariff on some of these drugs and devices to provide easy access for us to purchase”, he pleaded.
I almost got my limp amputated for lack of medications, says Timothy
Mrs Juliana Timothy, an elderly woman, who is a petty trader, is another patient who narrated her condition to Pharmanewsonline, when we visited her. She told us how she escaped limp amputation by the whiskers late last year, when she was diagnosed of diabetes. Thereafter, she explained how she been struggling with the management of the condition, as cost of drugs has gulped all her profits, while she is expected to visit the hospital once in two weeks for checkup and medications.
“Presently, I don’t even have any money again to buy drugs, as they are very expensive and my children have not been cooperating financially because they also have their challenges. It is only one, out of my nine children that supports me financially for my medications, whereas others are even looking unto me to assist them if I can. I think the government can come to our rescue, even for some of us who are elderly; they should create clinics where we can get these drugs freely or at subsidized rates”, she stated.
Experts affirm hike in anti-diabetes drugs, devices
In a chat with an Endocrinologist, Prof. Olufemi Fasanmade, from the University of Lagos, on the theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day (WDD), usually commemorated on every 14 November, which is “Access to diabetes care – If not now, when?” He concurred with the lamentations of diabetics on the surge in prices of their medications, saying it will cost a typical diabetes patient N5000 to N14000 to test his blood sugar in a month, as he needs to check once or twice a day.
DICOMA’s Trustee Chairperson, Dr Afoke Isiavwe, and Director of Communication Mrs Yinka Shokunbi, also affirmed this through their press statement, as they noted that children living with diabetes most of whom must be on regular insulin injection are also badly affected by the situation as many parents either reduce doses or stop administering injections as the cost of insulin, a vital component of diabetes management has risen by over 40% in the last six months. “A vial of insulin now costs between N6000 and N12, 000 in different parts of the country”.
Lifestyle management is key, says Fasanmade
Prof. Fasanmade, who appealed to government on behalf of diabetics to reduce duties on diabetes drugs, nonetheless pointed out that the solution to the condition lies with patients themselves, as they can work out the control of their glucose level at every point in time.
“So how can we cope with such cost? The simplest thing to do is to ensure that your blood sugar is so controlled, that you don’t need to check often. When your diabetes is well controlled, you don’t need to check every day, but if your diabetes has progressed to the extent that you are on tablets, you have anti-hypertensive, then you have to check very often. The only thing you can appeal is through the media for government to take away duties from diabetes medicines, because they are not manufactured in Nigeria”, he advised.
DICOMA harps on urgent govt’s intervention
DICOMA, therefore seeks urgent intervention from states and federal governments, saying the 2021 celebration of WDD should not just be a lips service, but practical steps should be taken to ameliorate the condition of people living with diabetes in the country, as it is done in other climes. They cited the examples of Cameroun and other African countries, where insulin has been made free for children and senior citizens, urging Nigeria to take clue from them.
The NGO’s representatives further expressed their alignment with the theme of the 2021 WDD, especially now that the cost of drugs and monitoring devices have gone far beyond the reach of the average person in the country that is living with diabetes. “We believe this year’s WDD should not be about speeches and other forms of social gatherings alone. The country must make conscious efforts to address the plight of people living with diabetes. It is time to review our policies and as a matter of urgency, introduce measures aimed at alleviating the plight of Nigerians suffering from diabetes.
“To this end we call on the government to, as a matter of urgency:Introduce policy and measures to drastically reduce the cost of anti-diabetes drugs and devices through zero import tariff and encouragement of their local production; provide free or subsidised insulin for children and the elderly; implement some of the already existing policies and guidelines for the management of diabetes in Nigeria; increase awareness for diabetes education and enlightenment.
“DICOMA also calls on state governments, to commence immediate campaign for diabetes prevention and control, beginning from the 2021 WDD, while healthcare providers and other stakeholders should also intensify their efforts in screening for diabetes and providing adequate information to assist people living with diabetes on the basic management of the disease, and also assist the general public in recognising the signs and symptoms of the condition”, they stated.