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Diabetics Cry Out Over High Import Duties On Medications

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As the world commemorates world diabetes day today, diabetic patients have called on the federal government to remove import duties on diabetes medication.

It would be recalled that the federal government last year issued a document with the title, ‘Import Adjustment Tax,’ whereby, 20 per cent tax on imported medicaments was introduced.

While the aim of government was to discourage the importation and encourage local manufacturing of drugs, the poor man on the streets who is down with diabetes is grossly affected.

LEADERSHIP learnt that over 90 per cent of diabetes medication and diagnosis devices are being imported into Nigeria. Meanwhile, the average annual cost of managing diabetes in Nigeria is $600, which is equivalent to N222,000 annually, and the minimum wage is $583.8, equivalent to N216,000 annually.

Also, with unemployment rate of  14.2 percent  (29million), up  to 80 percent of Nigerians still pay out of pocket to access medical care and coupled with the high cost of managing diabetes, Nigerians living with diabetes have called on the federal government to come to their aids.

Mr femi while narrating his ordeal of living with diabetes said it was the grace of God that he has survived up till today. He said when he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2013, his right foot was amputed and ever since then, life has never been the same.

He said initially, he thought it was an attack from his enemies, but when he went to the internet, he saw that diabetes could be so serious to one’s health. “It dawn on me, when the man that was on my right hand side of my bed in the hospital that I was admitted, died a year later because of his inability to manage the disease.

“According to his wife, after he left hospital, he could no longer afford his medication and strictly follow the directives from the doctor. His situation became worst and as such he died due to complications resulting from diabetes.

“I vowed that day that I would start disciplining myself by eating the proper food and taking my drugs. I have been on insulin for two years and was recently placed on another drugs. It has not been easy for me. I lost my job when my foot was amputed and my wife who became the bread winner, also lost her job. We could no longer afford to send our children to school.

“From January to April, this year, I didn’t take any medication, not because I don’t want to, but because I could not afford them. It is that bad. I know I could develop complications, but I went everywhere looking for money, nobody was able to lend me.

“A situation like this has led many people to commit suicide because of the financial burden, but I told myself I will scale through. Imagine a person living with diabetes, earning N20,000 with four children. He may also develop other diseases like hypertension, kidney failure etc, How can he cope?,” he queried.

He however pleaded with the federal government to come to his aid, by removing import duties on diabetes drugs and diagnosis devices/strips and provide welfare packages for people living with diabetes.

As for Mrs Veronica Okeke, a 57 year old woman, she was scared when the doctor told her, her sugar level was 780.

She said “I was scared because I have not finished paying the hospital bills of my son, and now I am down with diabetes that has no cure and then, I  will have to live with it, all the days of my life.”

Mrs Okeke told LEADERSHIP that, “If I could take my life, I would have done it. The financial burden is just too much for me to bear. When I was in the hospital, I spent N300,000 for drugs and other things, and now, the doctor told me I have to take insulin all the rest of my life.”

She however pleaded with the government to assist people living with diabetes, especially the vulnerable group in the society, by providing free medical care for them.

Meanwhile, while government would need to remove import duties on diabetes medication, stakeholders who spoke with LEADERSHIP at the Roche Media Round table on World Diabetes Day, have also called for more awareness on diabetes and urged Nigerians to watch their lifestyles.A renowned endocrinologist, Dr. Afoke Isiavwe, said as the prevalence rate of people living with diabetes increases everyday, adding that the government need to tackle the menace before it gets out of control.

Isiavwe said in Africa, about 16 million people are living with diabetes in 2017 and that figure is estimated to increase to 41 million in 2045, an increase of 156 per cent.

In Nigeria, she said a study by Uloko Musa in 2018, revealed that the overall prevalence of diabetes mellitus was 5.77 per cent and this is likely to increase if government don’t start to address the issues surrounding the management of diabetes in the country.

She stressed that diabetes, especially type 2 can be prevented through life style modification. “When we say life style modification, we are talking about diet, exercising, being more active and weight control and all that.

“We find out the rising prevalence of diabetes is as a result of our lifestyle. Our diets have changed, we are no longer as active as we use to be and we are adding more weight.

“The idea of taking sugary things and trying to flush it out with agbo as the yorubas call it is just a myth. We all need to eat well, just as our forefathers did, they used to go to the farm to get their food and prepare it and eat healthy unrefined wholesome grain, we need to start eating properly.

“There is no magic antidote to wrong eating, we need to teach our children to eat well, have balanced meals and  drink water regularly.

She emphasised that about half of the people with diabetes do not have symptoms, adding that the disease is usually picked up when they go to the eye clinic for surgery or have a stroke.

The lucky ones, according to the endocrinologist, which is about  50 per cent of diabetes cases in Nigeria, usually have frequent urination, feel thirsty , lose weight and feeling tired, adding that everyone is at risk of diabetes, children inclusive, hence the need to prevent it, before it becomes too late.

In the same vein, the president of Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mrs. Funke Egbemode, has urged governments both at Federal and state levels to  mount different stages, look Nigerians in the eyes and tell them how much has been achieved in the last one year or long years since the declaration of the day in 1991.

Egbemode, who was represented by the general secretary, NGE, Victoria Ibanga said the reasons the United Nation (UN) and other world bodies make declarations was to look for all available ways to cut down incidents of diseases or bring an issue to the front burner.

Egbemode said, “It is sad to learn that about 3.9 million people are currently living with diabetes in Nigeria, while about 846, 000 cases remain undiagnosed. These figures are staggering and at the same time alarming. In no small measure, it is a call to duty, a call to collective responsibility and a call to action. It is our duty to take action and the time to do that is now!”

She however urged journalists to question government about the budget for the health sector, how much is allocated, how much is implemented and how does it benefit the low and middle income communities?

She said, “We, as journalists also have a responsibility to spread our tentacles to the rural communities and provide them information and options especially ways to detect symptoms of disease especially diabetes and embark on extensive media campaign to create awareness on the rising cases of diabetes.”

The head, Roche Diabetes Care, Sub-Sahara Africa, Mrs Susan Snell, while addressing the issue of testing blood glucose, said a new survey conducted by Roche revealed that most Nigerians do not know that they can actually test their blood glucose at home, without necessary going to the hospital.

Snell described the Accu-Chek device as a “tailor-made diabetes self management solutions” designed to help people with diabetes  to manage their condition and also enhance their quality of life.

She said Roche has been involved in diabetes patient care for 30 years by providing the Accu-check blood sugar measurement which they could use at home or anywhere they are. She highlighted the importance of structured testing of blood glucose as a necessary measure a patient must take to achieve control of the disease.

She said the company has taken measures to protect the device against fake and poor quality products brought into the country through parallel importation by introducing the authentication label to enable users confirm the authenticity of their strips through toll free SMS.

Snell,however, announced that Roche will be introducing new devices in 2019 to further assist Nigerians living with diabetes and also help in early detection of new cases in the country.




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