By Leonard Okachie
As the world commemorates the World Diabetes Day 2023 , some patients living with diabetes mellitus in Abiahave decried the exorbitant cost of managing the ailment, saying it had drained their pockets.
According to the patients who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria in Umuahia on Monday, the cost of diabetes drugs is becoming unbearable for them.
They appealed to government to assist them in making the drugs available for free or at subsidised rate.
NAN reports that World Diabetes Day, established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation with support from WHO in response to growing concerns about the health and economic threat posed by diabetes, became an official UN day in 2006.
The global observance is to raise awareness about the impact of diabetes on the health of people and tohighlight the opportunities to strengthen the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2023 is: “Access to Diabetes Care” .
A patient, Mr Enyinnaya Nwokocha, said he had been on insulin injection since he was diagnosed with thedisease more than eight years ago without getting any assistance in the procurement of the injection.
He said: “Today, I have seen the doctor for this week, but I’m just waiting for my wife so that we can go back home.
“I come from Isiala Ngwa South every Monday to see the doctor, and it has not been easy for me,considering the distance and the cost of transportation.
“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.
Another patient who simply identified herself as Mama Uche from Ozu Abam in Bende Local Government Area,also lamented her ordeals in assessing treatment.
The septuagenarian complained that she had been on diabetes medication for the past five years without any meaningful improvement.
She said “my doctor has told me the food I should eat and the ones I should avoid.
“I urinate frequently, especially at night, in spite of taking my drugs but the condition worsens any time I skip my medication.
“The original drugs which I normally purchase at the pharmacy whenever I am in Umuahia are very expensive, and as a widow, I don’thave that kind of money.
“I wish government would assist us in terms of drugs because they are costly.
Mr Chijioke Nwakanma who said he was diagnosed with diabetes about five years ago, also said that 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 of naira to dollar and that is why I am calling on government to helpus to reduce the cost.
A check by NAN reveals that diabetes drugs, especially foreign brands, are scarce.
However, a price survey by NAN shows that foreign brands such as empagliflozin (Jardiance – 10 mg) sell for N16,250 per packet,while local brands such as Glucophage – 1000mg go for N2,250 per packet.
A pharmacist, Mr Fortune Moses, said that the primary challenge in the control of diabetes as a metabolic disease is financial burden.
According to him, some of the patients do not really know what they are suffering, even when they know, they prefer traditional medication.
In terms of financial challenges, the expensive drugs such as dapagliflozin(Farxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance), which are foreignbrands, work more than the cheap ones.
“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.
The patients , therefore, urged governments to improve care and services for persons suffering from diabetes by putting measures and incentives to reduce cost of accessing care and medication, as well as reduction of tax on diabetes drugs that are imported.
They called for improvement in hospitals especially in terms of manpower and equipment and tools to check, detect and manage the condition.
They also urged well-meaning individuals to support in the cost of treatment and management as well as improving facilities in hospitals.
Edited by Nick Nicholas/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu