Regulators get tough on drug-makers amid rising prices
‘No control of medicine cost in Nigeria’
Regulators around the world are getting tough on drug-makers amid soaring prices that companies say are justified by years of research and product development.
United States drug-maker, Pfizer, received a record 89.4 million pounds ($112.7 million/N56 billion) fine, last week Wednesday from British regulators for allegedly increasing the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 percent.
Pfizer is a major marketer of ethical and over the counter (OTC) drugs, and vaccines in Nigeria.
According to Reuters, Pfizer, and distributor Flynn Pharma charged “excessive and unfair prices” for the drug used by 48,000 people in Britain, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said. Pfizer was fined 84.2 million pounds and Flynn Pharma 5.2 million pounds.
But Corporate Affairs Director, Pfizer Nigeria, Ghana and East Africa Region (Pfizer NEAR), Margaret Olele, in a statement yesterday said Pfizer refuted the findings set out in the CMA decision. “Pfizer believes the CMA’s findings are wrong in fact and law and will be appealing all aspects of the decision,” she said.
The Guardian investigation revealed that the prices of essential and ethical drugs have more than doubled in the last year and there is no regulatory agency controlling the trend. However, critics blamed the situation on economic recession and high rate of foreign exchange.
The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed I. Yakasai, confirmed this to The Guardian. “It is a free market. Nobody is controlling the prices,” he said yesterday.
Yakasai also warned of imminent nationwide scarcity of drugs because of forex problems.
Nigeria imports over 70 per cent of its ethical and essential drugs need and the situation have worsened because of the prevailing economic situation.
It is feared that most Nigerian patients with chronic diseases on essential and ethical drugs like insulin injection and cancer drugs can no longer afford them and have resorted to traditional medicines.
Millions of Nigerians with diabetes who need insulin to survive are suffering with the rising costs of the life-saving medicine, which has risen as much as 400 per cent in the last 10 years.
This has led to most tertiary hospitals recording influx of patients with complications and at end stages of chronic diseases with attendant rise in deaths.
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