Nigerians turn to unproven asthma treatments as inhaler costs rise

Abuja, Nigeria – In Nigeria, the rising cost of inhalers poses a significant challenge to asthma patients, especially as the world marked Asthma Day this week.

The departure of multinational firms such as GSK, combined with inflation, has driven up prices, making essential medicines unaffordable. As a result, patients are turning to alternative treatments.

World Asthma Day 2024 notes that Nigeria is facing a deepening health crisis, with the cost of asthma medication increasing by more than 500% in less than a year.

It has led many like Khalida Jihad, an asthma sufferer for nearly 30 years, to cut back on their medical supplies.

“I hardly buy and stock any more…but I definitely have to have an inhaler, no matter what the cost, I definitely have to have it, but what about people who can’t afford it?” she said.

Some, like Rita Joseph, a college student who can’t afford inhalers, are turning to untested alternatives.

“For four months now, I can’t afford an inhaler because of the high price, so I now use ginger, garlic, cloves, lemon and other natural ingredients because they are cheaper,” she said.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes breathing difficulties. It affects millions globally and results in more than 450,000 preventable deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.

While Nigeria lacks recent official data, a 2019 study estimated that the country has 13 million asthma patients, among the most in Africa.

Public health experts like Ejike Orji fear that the rising cost of medicine could lead to a crisis.

“If the drug to deal with it is not practical when someone has an acute attack, it leads to loss of life,” Orji said. “As one asthma attack ends, another begins, and that’s why it’s very important that these drugs are affordable. A good example, the Ventolin inhaler is a standard drug that people buy, now the Ventolin inhaler is not once on the market.”

The burden of asthma falls heavily on low-income countries. More than 80% of deaths occur due to lack of awareness, poor management of the disease and limited access to health services as stated by the WHO.

Orji stresses the need for the Nigerian government to promote asthma awareness.

“One area the government can do is to increase public education and community engagement to create widespread awareness of what to avoid if you have asthma, what to do to prevent getting into trouble, and when you get an attack, what to do. do it right away,” Orji said.

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