Diabetes patients lament lack of govt policy, high cost of treatment

Lara Adejoro

People living with diabetes in Nigeria have lamented the high cost of medication and treatment for the condition.

They also decry how perceived lack of government policy worsens their condition.

This is even as experts say there are between three- and five million people living with diabetes in the country.

Speaking with our correspondent, the South-West Chairman, Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Abdulwahab Dauda, said there was no policy for diabetes in the country.

“The government doesn’t even know we exist. It’s only some of the pharmaceutical companies that support us.

“There is no policy to support our condition in the country. We have been making moves regarding this, but, so far, we have not succeeded.

“In some Africa countries, relevant laws enable them to have access to glucometers, but it is not the same for us in Nigeria.”

Dauda, who is also the Lagos State Chairman of DAN, said, “Some people can’t even afford their medication and we are trying to see how we can get to the government and how they can help our people.

“Diabetes is ravaging the country. There are some groups of people who have it but don’t have the means to manage it. There are people who have the means but can’t keep up with managing the condition and there are people who don’t even know they have it.

“Insulin costs nothing less than N4,000 and you may use a bottle in 10 days. This is apart from other medications. So, there must be a policy to support us, especially with regard to those who can’t afford the medication,” Dauda said.

A professor of Medicine at the Lagos State University College of Medicine, Anthonia Ogbera, said, genetics is central to the development of type 1 diabetes.

According to her, certain genetic markers place people at risk, and such susceptible people, when exposed to some viral infections, may develop type 1 diabetes mellitus.

“A large majority of the cases of type 1 diabetes have an autoimmune basis. It simply means the body is fighting against itself and as such, people who are known to have other autoimmune diseases are at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

“We know for a fact that having a risk factor does not necessarily translate into developing a disease condition but where multiple risk factors exist, the chances are higher. However, a small group of persons with type 1 diabetes has no known risk factor and this group is referred to as idiopathic.

“Some case report series from Nigeria and some other developing countries have documented long term malnutrition as a valid risk factor for type 1 diabetes. This is because the pancreas which is the seat of insulin production is affected by malnutrition,” Ogbera said.

Also, a professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Consultant Physician/Endocrinologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Olufemi Fasanmade, said diabetes is common in every age group.

“But the reason we don’t see many of them in childhood is that they die very fast,” Prof. Fasanmade said.

“If a child has diabetes and doesn’t get the appropriate treatment, the child may last for just two days. Patients with type 1 diabetes must be on insulin every day.

“It’s a condition that you cannot afford to be off treatment for more than one or two days. Once it is more than two days, the person dies fast,” he said.

He noted that diabetes is a major public health condition, yet it does not get the attention it deserves.

“The number of people with diabetes in Nigeria is much more than the number of people that have HIV, TB, and malaria typhoid put together,” he said.

The don said there are about 3-5 million people with diabetes in Nigeria, warning that the number might double over the next two decades.

Fasanmade said the cheapest drug for managing the condition is about N2,000.

“There are patients who will buy drugs worth N60,000 monthly and this has to be for life because there is no cure.”

Ogbera, however, advocates that the health insurance scheme covers for insulin “and I suggest the hospitals keep a dedicated ‘samaritan purse’ for this purpose.”

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