Remove tariffs on essential drugs imports now – DICOMAI urges FG

Remove tariffs on essential drugs imports now – DICOMAI urges FG

Worried by the current high cost of drugs in the country, a media-based non-governmental organization, Diabetes Control Media Advocacy Initiative (DICOMAI) has called on the Federal government to remove import duties on essential drugs, especially for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, as an urgent measure to reduce the increased cost of managing the diseases in the country.

The organization also urged both Federal and state governments to make diabetes management free to children and the elderly.

In a statement signed by its Chairman Board of Trustees, Dr. Afoke Isiavwe and Executive Director, Sam Eferaro, DICOMAI decried the present high costs of drugs following the removal of fuel subsidy and other policies and urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, come up with measures to make drugs and other medical intervention affordable  for the poor. The statement reads:

“We commend the President Tinubu for his swift intervention in some key areas of the Nigerian economy and attempts to bring succor to the poor masses in these hard times. However, we wish to draw his attention to the precarious situation people seeking health care are now facing. We believe, their plight can be urgently addressed through fresh policies that will impact directly on their conditions.

“At the moment access to health care in all parts of the country has become more difficult as the cost of life-saving drugs have gone beyond the reach of most Nigerians. The situation is worse for people suffering from serious conditions some of which require life-long therapeutic management.

“Many people living with diabetes currently have their lives hanging in the balance as the condition is now more difficult, than ever, to control now that the cost of drugs and monitoring devices are no longer affordable. Cases of parents not giving their children vital insulin at the right doses are now becoming rampant. For some people, they have been forced to stop taking their regular drugs and are at the risk of developing serious complications.

“Indeed, it is a common knowledge that more Nigerians both in the rural and urban areas are developing diabetes complications as a result of their inability to control their condition. Even before now, experts have alerted that in Nigeria, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremities amputation, prolonged hospital in-patient stay and sometimes avoidable deaths. Poorly managed diabetes results in diabetes complications like diabetes foot ulcers, kidney failure, blindness etc.

“There’s therefore a need to urgently bring down the cost of drugs for some of these conditions. Unfortunately, over 70% of medicines used in the country are imported. The situation is even worse for conditions such as cancer and diabetes that have a large majority of drugs and monitoring devices needed for their management imported. Pharmaceutical industry sources say the cost of these drugs could be reduced drastically by as much as 40 percent if the government waves import duties and other taxes for their importation. “DICOMAI earnestly pleads with His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to consider doing this, in his      quest to give succor to the sick”.  

“Currently, no fewer than 5 million Nigerians are living with diabetes  and like elsewhere in the world, the number of cases is daily increasing. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), estimates that one in every two people with diabetes in the country is undiagnosed; since up to half of persons living with type 2 diabetes do not have any signs or symptoms of the disorder. This means that the current estimated number of cases could be double or even more. This is one health disaster Nigeria cannot afford to face, especially given our current socio-economic situation, alongside the brain drain being faced in the health sector.

IDF describes diabetes mellitus as “one of the largest global health emergencies of the 21st century”, largely because of its severe and deadly consequences. This is a preventable disease that affects virtually all organs of the body, resulting in lower limb amputations, loss of vision, dental problem, kidney failure, and cardiovascular disease when not well managed.

“More worrisome is the fact that many Nigerians with diabetes only get to know of their status at an advance stage of the disease when complications like glaucoma, cataract, foot ulcers, strokes etc have set in. Awareness about the disease and improved access to routine diabetes screenings to help early diagnosis should be encouraged. This is especially important as people advance in age, or have a family history of the condition.

“We therefore call on the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene urgently to prevent an avoidable health disaster that could result from the neglect of people living with diabetes and other serious conditions such as cancer, hypertension, asthma among others. An immediate reduction or total removal of import tariff on these essential drugs will no doubt bring some relief to these group of patients,” DICOMAI said.

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