World Diabetes Day: Expert advocates responsible medicine pricing

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A family physician, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, has appealed to the Federal Government to ensure responsible pricing mechanism of life saving medicine to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in the country. Sodipo, Head, Family Medicine Department, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), made the call in an interview with the Newsmen on Monday in Lagos.

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He made the call in commemoration of the World Diabetes Day celebrated annually on Nov. 14, to raise awareness of the growing burden of diabetes, and strategies to prevent and manage the threat.

This year’s theme is: “Access to diabetes care”, highlighting the importance of prevention and response efforts.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Sodipo, former Chairman, Medical Guild, said there should be a strategic plan for management of chronic medical conditions, especially diabetes which was a global public health issue and prevalent in the country.

“We need to have a situation similar to what’s done in other countries, where there’s a cap on the price of essential life saving medicine. Definitely, companies will make profit but the government should wade in and ensure that there’s no exploitation of the patients just like during COVID-19 when medical items that were cheap suddenly became outrageously expensive because of an increased demand. That’s what we are seeing now because some of the big pharmaceutical companies are leaving Nigeria and some of the few with access to bring in the drugs are doing so at exorbitant prices. Now, those that need these medications, like diabetes drugs, are not getting it. It’s worrisome, especially at this time,” Sodipo said.

Sodipo acknowledged that most medications are produced abroad, thus exposed to the intricacies of foreign exchange fluctuations, stressing that responsible pricing would reduce morbidity and mortality.

“Many patients haven’t been able to manage their glucose level properly, some don’t have access to the newer medications that help to prevent complications from the disease. If we could subsidise fuel in the past, then the government should take steps to ensure access to medicines, especially for the most vulnerable citizens,” he said.

He stressed that diabetes was a health condition that required a multidisciplinary approach in its management, thus called for collaboration between the government and private sector in achieving a patient-centred pricing mechanism.

Sodipo appealed to the government to support pharmaceutical companies with funding and favourable macroeconomic policies to enhance local medicine production.

Data from the World Health Organisation showed that 24 million adults are currently living with diabetes, with that number predicted to increase to 55 million by 2045.

In 2021, diabetes mellitus took the lives of 416,000 people in Africa and is forecast to become one of the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030.