Pharmacists in the country say the scarcity of drugs used in the treatment of life-threatening conditions such as prostate enlargement, asthma, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, and more, have shot up by 300%.
These drugs are mostly manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, but the pharmacists say the drugs’ scarcity is largely caused by supply chain shocks, scarcity of foreign exchange, and the impact of COVID-19.
The pharmacists said patients, mostly those who pay out-of-pocket, have to pay more than they can afford when they have to buy these essential and widely used drugs.
According to them, drugs like Ventolin, Augmentin, Seretide, Cervarix (for HPV vaccine), Duodart, Zinnat, and Ampiclox made by GSK are scarce in the country.
To better appreciate the problem, the following are the uses of some of the aforementioned drugs:
Ventolin is used to treat wheezing and shortness of breath caused by breathing problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The medication belongs to a class of drugs known as bronchodilators. It works by relaxing the muscles around the airways so that they open up and patient can breathe more easily.
Augmentin is commonly used in adults and children to treat infections of the urinary tract, respiratory tract, ear, sinuses, and skin.
Seretide is used to help with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in people who need regular treatment.
Duodart is indicated for the treatment of patients with moderate-to-severe symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). It reduces the risk of acute urinary retention (AUR) and the need for BPH-related surgery by reducing prostate size, improving urinary flow and alleviating symptoms.
Zinnat is an antibiotic used to treat certain infections caused by bacteria, including respiratory tract infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis (infections of the throat), urinary tract infections (infections of the structures that carry urine), skin infections, soft-tissue infections.
The President of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Adewale Oladigbolu said, “There is a relative scarcity of GSK drugs and other products from other companies. That of GSK is pronounced because they are marketers of products that are widely known and widely used.
“The products have gone up by more than 300 per cent as against what we used to sell, and those products are not readily available. Anytime patients need to use the innovator brand, the patients will have to pay more, but there are generic equivalents of those products, but all over the world, people tend to align with the innovator products. If the scarcity continues, it can even lead to the death of patients,” he lamented.
He noted that the association is working with industry leaders to resolve the shortages.
“From our end, we are creating a platform for people to report medicine shortages in the country. This will help us to know what is happening and help to resolve the issues,” he added.
Also, the chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Gbolagade Iyiola said, almost all GSK drugs are scarce in the country.
“It is basically a forex challenge, the scarcity of forex is the major problem. Almost all their products are scarce. Duodart has been scarce in the last three months. Augmentin and Zinnat which are in tablets and syrups, are also scarce.
“For instance, we used to buy Ventolin at N1,200 and we sell to other pharmacies at N1,800, but with the scarcity now, Ventolin is now about N3,000 or N3,500. Since there is increased in demand and there is reduced supply, the prices are going up.”
Iyiola said unscrupulous manufacturers may take advantage of the scarcity and deliberately produce poor-quality drugs to the detriment of patients.
A pharmacist and Chief Executive Officer of HubCare Health, Sesan Kareem also said the scarcity has lingered for five months.
“Their products are now very expensive. The 1g of augmentin used to be N4,000, but it is now N10,000. So, the majority of people are going for other brands.
“The company should work on making the drugs available and reduce the cost for people to afford it,” Kareem said.
On his part, the founder and president of the National Movement for the Actualisation of Good Governance, Douglas Ogbankwa said, “The drugs have increased to over 250 per cent in the last year and that is to reduce the value of the share of those in Nigeria so they can take over.”