Worried by the exorbitant cost of anti-hepatitis drugs, which is putting the health of many patients in jeopardy, the Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN), Lagos State Chapter, has called on government at all levels to subsidise hepatitis treatment, as well as formulate policies towards reducing mortality rates of the disease.
The association maintained that such measures will go a long way in ensuring early treatment for patients, thereby reducing deaths arising from complicated cases of hepatitis. It also stressed the need for more awareness campaigns on the condition, as many people are still ignorant of their status on the disease.
AHAPN-Lagos made this statement during its free hepatitis screening and awareness campaign, conducted at the Mushin Local Government Area, in commemoration of 2022 World Hepatitis Day, where over 200 residents were screened.
Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview during the programme, chairman of the association, Pharm. (Dr) Modupe Oyawole said that the exercise was meant to educate residents, as well as screen them to be aware of their status regarding the disease. She also seized the opportunity to seek government support for people with the condition, saying early detection and treatment are critical.
“Governments at all levels can work towards the provision of drugs for people that are already positive. Since anti-hepatitis are very expensive, governments should endeavour to subsidise them for easy access and affordability to the people. This will help a lot of people to get treatments early enough before it gets complicated and result in death.
“They can also ensure that there are policies in place for the reduction of hepatitis in the country” she said.
The keynote speaker, Pharm. Ebiere Herbertson, who spoke on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Bringing hepatitis care closer to you”, described hepatitis as a silent killer, saying this was what informed AHAPN’s decision to bring the free screening closer to the people at the grassroots level.
She defined hepatitis as an inflammation of the liver, listing the five main types of the hepatitis virus to include Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
She also explained that there are different means of transmitting the different types of hepatitis virus. According to her, while Hepatitis A is usually spread through contaminated food or water or by faecal matter, Hepatitis B can be transmitted through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.
“Hepatitis C can also spread through infected blood such as sharing of infected needles/ mother-to-child transmission. It is also rarely spread via unprotected sex. Hepatitis D transmission occurs through broken skin, via injection, tattooing or through contact with the infected blood or blood products,” she said.
Herbertson further disclosed that their mission was to reduce spread of the disease.
She said, “To mark this year’s World Hepatitis Day, Lagos State AHAPN organised series of screening with the provision of testing kits for over 200 participants for Hepatitis B, C, and some other chronic diseases.
“This was to ensure that people are aware and conscious of the danger of hepatitis in the society and endeavour to get vaccinated to prevent it in the future.”
Addressing participants earlier, the state chairman, Oyawole, enlightened them on the symptoms of hepatitis such as yellowish eyes, swollen tummy, fatigue, low blood level, saying that, at an advanced stage, some patients notice dark-coloured urine, among others.
She further emphasised that if the disease is not detected and treated early, it could lead to death.
She said, “If hepatitis is not properly diagnosed and treated accordingly, it could lead to death, as the liver is the major organ that is affected. I was told that three persons tested positive today, which shows that they wouldn’t have known if we had not come here today.”
Herbertson earlier mentioned other causes of the infection, saying liver inflammation could be caused by drug abuse, alcohol use, or certain medical conditions but mostly caused by viruses.
The hospital pharmacists also used the sensitisation campaign to pay a courtesy visit to the LGA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Bamigboye, in his office, to express their appreciation for his support and physical presence at the screening centre.
One of the participants at the screening, who identified himself as Mr Tajudeen and a petty trader, appreciated the kind gestures of Lagos-AHAPN in bringing free screening closer to them at the secretariat, saying some of them would not have known about hepatitis without the free screening.