Apprehension as Prices of Medication Drugs in Nigeria Surge by Over 1,000%

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 By Adedapo Adesanya

A new report from SB Morgen Intelligence has shown that prices of drugs have skyrocketed by as much as 1,000 per cent in the last four years, raising worries about Nigerians being able to treat themselves using orthodox methods.

In the report Paying the Price on Health, the firm analysed the impacts of the Nigerian economy and foreign exchange crisis on the prices of essential medicines in the country.

It was found that between 2019 and 2023, there were massive surges across four broad categories of Antimalarial, Antibiotics, Painkillers and Common Cold medicines.

The report indicates that antibiotics recorded the highest price increases, with 500mg Ampiclox capsules recording the highest jump. The cost price is said to increase by 1,390 per cent and the selling price increasing by 1,100 per cent between 2019 and 2023.

Antimalarial drugs saw the slowest price increase in the period under review, while only one (Novalgin) in the painkiller category has maintained its 2022 price in 2023, following a 25 per cent increase in price in 2022.

SBM noted that 19 per cent of respondents who participated in a 2023 survey reported spending a significant amount of their income on healthcare and 67 per cent of respondents who reported making lifestyle changes due to a high cost of living, listed cutting back on healthcare bills.

According to the method, five brands of medicine were considered in all the categories except the antibiotics where 10 brands were evaluated.

Of all the brands under the painkillers category, Emzor is the only local manufacturer with their Paracetamol accounting for the highest rate of cost and selling price increase, growing by over 450 per cent and 250 per cent, respectively, since 2019.

“This may be due to the strong brand presence that Paracetamol has built as a painkiller amongst the populace, thereby giving the manufacturer room to transfer rising production costs to the end user,” the report noted.

Like the other categories, the cost price of medicines under the painkiller category grew faster than the selling price, except Brustan-N, produced by Sun Ranbaxy, an Indian manufacturer, as the selling price grew faster than the cost price in 2023.

Medicines under the common cold category recorded the second-highest rate of increase since 2019. The report showed that on a year-on-year basis, the cost price of Procold and Mixagrip recorded the highest increase; rising by 90 per cent, while Fluj recorded the slowest rate of increase at 17.65 per cent.

Across all drug categories, the highest jump in the cost and selling prices was recorded in the antibiotics section, which was attributed to the continued demand for antibiotics.

Between 2022 and 2023, Amoxil recorded the fastest rate of increase, jumping by over 400 percentage points. This was followed by Ampiclox, which saw an increase of 240 percentage points.

Of all the categories considered, the antimalarial category accounted for the lowest rate of increase. According to the report, between 2019 and 2023, Lonart recorded the highest cost and selling price increase – up by 110 per cent and 92.3 per cent, respectively.

Unlike the Common Cold category, the rate of increase of the cost price was faster than the selling price – translating to reduced profit margins for medicine retailers.

According to the report, the rising cost of drugs in Nigeria has far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the borders of the country.

“It threatens to exacerbate global health challenges by reducing access to essential medicines, increasing the spread of diseases, and undermining international health security,” it noted.

“The high cost of drugs in Nigeria is forcing patients to skip doses or forgo treatment altogether based on anecdotal observations.

“This can lead to the development of drug resistance, making it more difficult to treat infections. It can also worsen chronic conditions, leading to increased morbidity and mortality.”

The report further explained that when patients are unable to afford essential medicines, they may resort to self-treatment or seek treatment from unlicensed practitioners, which can lead to the inappropriate use of antibiotics, and contribute to the development of drug resistance.

It added that it can also increase the spread of infectious diseases as untreated patients continue to shed pathogens

The SBM report also observed that the increased costs of medicine are also a signal that foreign inflows may slow down in the pharmaceutical business as profit margins reduce.

The report quoted Boladele Silva, a pharmaceutical professor at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who explained that Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry is highly exposed to shocks from foreign exchange volatility.

“In Nigeria, what we have are packaging hubs. The active pharmaceutical ingredients and most excipients used by the manufacturers are imported. That makes them very vulnerable to economic shocks,” he told SBM, explaining the hike in the prices of medicines.

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