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Access to generic drugs provides affordable treatment options for Nigerians.

Many developing countries, including Nigeria, face the challenge of rising drug prices, posing a major concern for their citizens.

The increasing cost of medication has made access to essential drugs more difficult for many Nigerians.

The upward trend in drug costs has rendered necessary medications unaffordable for a large portion of the population.

This consistent rise in healthcare costs puts pressure on both patients and healthcare systems.

Factors such as high brand-name drug prices, research and development expenses, and complex regulatory processes contribute to the escalating prices. As a result, healthcare budgets are stretched, necessitating the identification of cost-effective alternatives.

Health sector stakeholders have cited several factors contributing to the problem, including currency devaluation, importation costs, and monopolistic practices by pharmaceutical companies.

These issues lead to an inability to afford life-saving drugs, resulting in higher mortality rates and declining public health in the country.

In the face of soaring healthcare costs, finding cost-effective solutions is crucial for both healthcare providers and patients.

Wikipedia defines a generic drug as a medication that contains the same chemical substance as a patent-protected drug. Generics become available for sale after the expiration of the original patents and are generally equivalent in performance to their patented counterparts.

While generic drugs share the same active pharmaceutical ingredient as the original, they may differ in aspects such as manufacturing process, formulation, excipients, color, taste, and packaging.

Countries like India and China have found success with generic drugs, offering substantial savings without compromising quality and efficacy.

Dr. Simon Agwale, CEO of Innovative Biotech, noted that after two decades of a prescription medication’s patent protection, exclusive manufacturing and marketing rights belong to the patent holder.

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Agwale explained that during this period, only the brand-name version is available.

However, once the patent expires, other companies can produce and market generic versions at lower prices.

“Generic drugs must contain the same active ingredients and meet the same safety standards as their brand-name counterparts, but they are cheaper because the manufacturer did not incur the initial research and development costs,” he said.

Agwale emphasized the significant cost savings associated with generic drugs.

“Studies have shown that generic drugs can be up to 80-85% cheaper than their brand-name equivalents.

“This allows healthcare providers to allocate their budgets more efficiently, ensuring that more patients can access necessary medications without financial burden,” he added.

President Bola Tinubu has approved three resolutions to strengthen the health and social welfare sector and better serve Nigerians.

These measures aim to alleviate the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, fund health sector regulatory bodies, and address the shortage of human resources in the sector.

Guided by his Renewed Hope Agenda, Tinubu emphasizes human capital, health, and social welfare as central to his administration’s priorities.

One resolution will be implemented via an Executive Order to support local drug manufacturers and ensure fair pricing of essential medicines.

The Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) called for a holistic approach to addressing Nigeria’s health system challenges.

They argued that issuing executive orders and engaging with pharmaceutical industries would not solve the country’s health problems in the long term.

Instead, the coalition recommended addressing root causes such as the poor status of the Naira, insecurity, infrastructure gaps, corruption, and high costs of doing business.

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The coalition pointed to the success of countries like Malaysia in developing robust healthcare systems and efficient medicine supply chains without relying on executive orders.

Dr. Simeon Onyemaechi, Chairman of the Forum of CEOs of State Social Health Insurance Agencies in Nigeria, highlighted concerns regarding the quality and efficacy of generic drugs compared to brand-name drugs.

However, Onyemaechi stressed that generic drugs undergo rigorous testing and regulatory processes to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

“Regulatory authorities, such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, closely monitor and regulate generic drug production to maintain high standards.

“As a result, Nigerians can trust that generic drugs offer the same therapeutic benefits as their brand-name counterparts,” he said.

As the high cost of medication continues to burden Nigerians, Prof. Cyril Osifoh, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), advocated for the prescription and dispensing of generic drugs as a solution on Channels TV.

Osifoh noted that embracing generic alternatives allows healthcare professionals to reduce the financial burden on patients while maintaining the same therapeutic efficacy.

The PSN is working with the government to explore additional measures to lower medication costs and improve access to affordable healthcare in the country.

Pharm Juliet Bernard, a Director at Toosie Pharmacy in Abuja, pointed out that despite their proven effectiveness and cost savings, generic drugs face stigma and misconceptions among patients and healthcare professionals.

Bernard observed that some people believe generic drugs are of lower quality or less effective, leading to hesitance in their use.

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She emphasized that educating patients and healthcare providers about the benefits and safety of generic drugs is crucial for maximizing healthcare budgets and improving access to affordable treatment.

By embracing generic drugs, healthcare systems can allocate resources more efficiently, ensuring that patients receive the care they need without facing financial hardship.

“If your doctor prescribes medication, ask if a generic alternative is available and whether your doctor has any preferences or guidance.

“You’ll likely pay less at the pharmacy for a generic drug prescription.

“And if your health plan has step therapy rules, a generic drug will help you avoid the potential claim denials for higher-priced drugs,” she explained.