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Individuals living with diabetes mellitus in Abia are voicing their concerns over the excessively high expenses of managing the ailment, stating that it has imposed a considerable financial burden on them.
Patients, in individual interviews with journalists in Umuahia on Monday, expressed their complaints regarding the financial challenges of dealing with diabetes, coinciding with the approaching World Diabetes Day on Tuesday, November 14.
The International Diabetes Federation, collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO), laid the foundation for World Diabetes Day in 1991 to address mounting concerns about the health and economic repercussions of diabetes. This undertaking was officially designated as a United Nations Day in 2006.
Bemoaning their plight, the patients expressed concern over the unbearable cost of diabetes drugs, urging the government to step in and ensure the availability of these medications either for free or at a subsidized cost.
A patient, Enyinnaya Nwokocha, said he had been on insulin injections since he was diagnosed with the disease more than eight years ago without getting any assistance in the procurement.
‘The drugs are quite expensive, and we don’t even see them in my community, so I always look for money whenever I’m coming to purchase it because the doctor placed me on a weekly visit,’ Mr Nwokocha said.
Another patient, Mama Uche, who resides in Ozu Abam in Bende Local Government Area, narrated her challenges in accessing treatment.
Having been on diabetes medication for the past five years, the septuagenarian voiced her frustration, noting the absence of any substantial improvement.
‘The original drugs, which I normally purchase at the pharmacy whenever I am in Umuahia, are very expensive, and as a widow, I don’t have that kind of money.’
‘I wish the government would assist us in terms of drugs because they are costly,’ she stated.
Chijioke Nwakanma, who said he was diagnosed with diabetes about five years ago, also said the drugs are not only expensive but scarce.
He said, I am aware that the foreign drugs are more effective than the local ones, but I usually buy the local ones because they are cheaper.’
‘The drug dealers told us that the high cost is due to the high exchange rate of naira to dollar, and that is why I am calling on the government to help us reduce the cost.’
A survey reveals that diabetes drugs, especially foreign brands, are scarce. However, foreign brands such as empagliflozin (Jardiance-10 mg) sell for N16,250 per packet, while local brands such as Glucophage-1000 mg go for N2,250 per packet.
Pharmacist Fortune Moses underscored the primary challenge in handling diabetes as a metabolic disease – the financial burden. He noted that some patients are uninformed about their condition, and even when aware, they lean towards traditional medications.
When considering financial constraints, expensive foreign brands like dapagliflozin (Farxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance) are more potent than their cheaper alternatives.
‘Due to the financial burden, patients around the locality go for metformin (Glucophage), which is sold for N240 per card.’
‘That is not to say that the cheap brand does not work, but the foreign counterpart works faster,’ he said.