How self-medication worsen health of Nigerians
Invivo begins free consultations for 500, 000
A mixture of despair and pain could be seen all over Alabi. Stains of blood in his urine have further increased this morning. And with each passing day, the bladder empties with greater difficulty. Paying for a medical check and treatment trouble the mind of the 64-year-old who has not earned salary in the last couple of months.
Apparently worried too, Alabi’s daughter, Ariyike, offered a possible solution that sounded like a joke to Alabi. The idea of hospital services in a nearby shopping mall, in Challenge area of Ibadan, Oyo State, sounds alien to the father, and the notion of “free” consultation by medical doctors further raised his doubts.
Alabi visited the mall with much persuasion. And nine-month down the line, it turned out to be the move that saved his life.
Few houses from the Alabis, an artisan, Idris could hardly work without a popular cough syrup to cure his persistent headache.
At a nearby pharmacy he just heard of, he learnt that he might have been killing himself gradually, taking addictive substances like codeine contained in his favourite cough syrup.
Further investigation by the resident pharmacist suggested that Idris needed de-prescription or discontinued medication. After a week on drug holiday, Idris’s headache cleared, his health improved and he also saved some money.
The stories of Idris and Alabi, according to experts, are two instances of major medical concerns in the Nigerian health circle today. It is either a case of inaccessible consultation when most necessary or outright case of self-medication and attendant drug abuse.
Medical doctor at Invivo Health and Beauty Outlet, Palms Mall, Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Funto Ogundapo, explained that Alabi was one in many cases of delayed diagnosis that could have left the patient with poor treatment outcome or early grave.
Alabi, according to the doctor, had symptoms that were consistent with Benign Prostrate Hypertrophy (BPH). Luckily, he attended the free clinic service on offer at Invivo outlet in Ibadan and was diagnosed, referred for further investigation and was treated immediately.
“We referred him to a Neurologist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. He was immediately treated and subsequently sent back here (Invivo) for follow up. Within a month, he improved a lot. That is the benefit of prompt diagnosis, which is one of the main essences of primary health care,” Ogundapo said.
The doctor observed that a lot of Nigerians actually delay before seeing any doctor, but “that is why there are primary health centres around.”
“One should be able to walk into anyone and get care. We at Invivo are free and some local governments too are free. That way, the patient is able to cut-off the consultation cost of about N5000 for a start.
“We must remember that a hypertensive patient that didn’t know or don’t get diagnosed can come down with stroke at anytime. Symptoms like painful or delayed urination and others that are not immediately treated easily worsen and would require surgery. Prompt diagnosis is one of the key components of care,” she stressed.
Ogundapo, however, added that it was not the case that Nigerians don’t care about their health; rather, “they don’t know where to go for it.”
She observed that 12 months since Invivo, a subsidiary of Smartmark Limited opened to the public, offering free medical check to all and sundry, “the clinic sees an average of 10 to 25 persons in a day.”
“Till date, we have seen over 3000 people since April 2015. People in Ibadan want to know about their health and conditions like malaria, high blood pressure, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) among others that can be easily helped.
“But the problem is that they don’t get tested early enough and only show up in hospitals when they are already very sick. The free consultation around here has really brought a lot of succour to the people,” Ogundapo said.
Studies have it that at least two-third of fatal medical cases could have been reversed if they are diagnosed early enough. But in third-world countries like Nigeria where about 70 per cent of the population lives on less than one-dollar-a-day and treatment is out-of-pocket, there is a very little the people could have done.
Founder of Smartmark, Yakubu Gobir, said that it was unfortunate that Nigerians still have challenges with seeking prompt healthcare amidst primary health care centres that Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti introduced into the health system several years ago.
Gobir said that Ransome-Kuti, a former minister of health, was spot on when he introduced primary healthcare centres across the country, though lamented that the initiative has not enjoyed the needed support over the years.
Apparently convinced on its importance to improving the health status of Nigerians, he said the Invivo board of directors had taken it upon themselves to offer free services in that area of primary health.
“We (Invivo) have pharmacists and clinics in our retail outlets nationwide. So, why don’t we offer the primary health services to the people? That is using business solution to address social problems (social entrepreneurship) like misdiagnosis and self-medications.
“That informs the idea of Invivo Beauty and Health outlets and we have an ambitious plan to create 500 Invivo stores nationwide; it is like having a store in each local government,” Gobir said.
Where medical diagnoses have been inaccessible, a whole lot of Nigerians have turned to self-medication.
Head Pharmacist at Ibadan outlet, Yinka Akinbobola, informed that the store had seen one-too-many cases of drug abuse, quite typical of Idris, cited above. But with right information on prescriptions, Akinbobola said, less medicine could actually mean more health.
Her words: “There are many non-prescription drugs that Nigerians prescribe for themselves and ready to buy. These are very dangerous to their health. Almost everyone think they can take Ampiclox, Benylin and Codeine among others but when we ask them questions, we often find that they don’t need them all. We advise them rightly on what to do, and give them follow up for free. They are better for it,” Akinbobola said.
A director at Invivo, John Onyeoguzoro, told The Guardian that the free consultancy approach in Ibadan, Lagos and Abuja made their outlets stand out.
Onyeoguzoro said: “Invivo Health and Beauty stores changes the future of health and beauty for the Nigerian consumer by pioneering a one-stop destination for all health and beauty needs, and a consultancy approach to its service delivery. Stores include experiential opportunities with a hair salon, pharmacy, and treatment room with a resident doctor offering free consultations.
“With Invivo, the social problems being addressed are a lack of easy access to primary health care; the menace of counterfeit and fake dugs; self-medication and lack of early diagnosis of potentially fatal disease conditions.
“As a patient-centered and health-focused business, Invivo strives to support the government towards achieving its primary healthcare goals. The free check facility in all Invivo stores allows patients to walk-in; get their vitals checked and a resident doctor or nurse to consult. All for free.”
Contained in the free medical consultancy and easy accessibility for patients are free eye checkups and glaucoma screening; free immunisation to children aged zero to 59 months; cervical PAP smear screening test and mammography as well as prostrate screening.
Others are HIV/Hepatitis B screening; reproductive, maternal and child services, body mass index calculation and weight management counseling given with subsequent follow-up of high-risk obesity patients for cardiovascular risk assessment.
With over 10,000 patients treated yearly across the three stores, even as the brand aims to reach 500,000 Nigerians in the next couple of years, the Nigerian public apparently has better health to look forward to.