Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Nigerians resort to deadly herbal concoctions as cost of drugs chokes 

As the retail prices of drugs commonly used by Nigerians continue to increase lately, many Nigerians have resorted to praying to deadly herbal concoctions for healing of diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses.

Many patients said the increasing cost of medicines have left them in despair and fear of complications from the diseases. 

Agnes Adenike, a 62-year-old retiree battling with uncontrolled blood sugar, blood pressure, and high cholesterol level, said life has become more difficult for her since the last few months.

“When I started treatment two years ago, I was placed on 1000mg Merck Glucophage, which cost N2000 per pack but now sells for N11,350; Nifedipine was N800 now goes for N3,500. A pack of Lipitor Atorvastatin Calcium 20mg was N3000 now sells for N30,600, Bondomet was N70 per sachet now N400. I use a pack of each medicine per month.

“They said eat healthy, but now a piece of egg goes for N150, a sizeable piece of apple costs N400; the cost of living is choking life out of the living. We are standing by God’s grace. My pension is N27,000 per month, and there’s no way I could afford all these. I spoke with my physician about alternative brands of medicines to reduce costs. However, after one month of use, I was hospitalized because the alternative drugs weren’t controlling my condition. Upon discharge from the hospital, I’ve resorted to healing service at various churches, months after I’m doing well,” she said.

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In her case, Jumoke Ajayi, a diabetic and hypertensive patient, told journalists that she has resorted to taking traditional medicines including herbs and other alternative therapies to manage her illness.

“The increase in the prices of drugs started like a joke and today, I can no longer afford the drugs I use to maintain my health. The cost of  Glucophage,  Exforgent sold for N1,000 and 15,000 respectively. But they are currently sold at N3,000 and N35,000. I have gone back to my roots and started using herbs late last year, to ensure that my health doesn’t turn for the worst,” she said. “I hope the government will do everything to normalise the situation of the country and make drugs more affordable for Nigerians.”

Gabriel Afolabi also said he could no longer provide drugs for his aged mother battling with high Blood Pressure (BP) and rheumatism. “At times, she insists on taking herbs because of the cost of drugs. Government should find a way around this and subsidise the cost of medication for the aged in the country”.

While several local herb sellers speak glowingly about their products, health experts argue that herbal concoctions are subjected to heavy metal contamination from the plant ingredients, processing or anthropogenic activities which may render the herb harmful for human consumption. In fact, the Nigeria of Nephrology says that about 20 million of Nigeria’s population live with kidney diseases caused by cheap herbal medications. 

Commenting on the situation, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, Head of Family Medicine Department at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said that the exit of some pharmaceutical companies holds wider implications.

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Established in 1993 to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale, and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, medical devices, and packaged water, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) mandates the registration and approval of herbal medicinal products before marketing. Despite the regulations, various types of concoctions are being hawked around major cities by women usually referred to as ‘elewe-omo’.


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