Akwa Ibom state Co-ordinator, Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Dr. Sam Onung, has condemned the high cost of diabetes drugs, calling on the government to prove free treatment or subsidise the cost.
According to him, such would help minimize the rising deaths among patients in the state.
He made this plea while speaking with Journalists shortly after a free screening exercise conducted by the Association for traders at Akpan-Andem market, in Uyo.
Onung, who is the Consultant Physician/ diabetologist said diabetes patients need between N30,000-N40,000 to purchase drugs every month, adding that such an amount is too high for the patients most of whom are retirees.
The medical practitioner who spoke against the backdrop of the World Diabetes Day with the theme “Access to Diabetes Care” lamented that over 300,000 people are living with the disease in the state going by the currently available data, adding that they are suffering because they have no access to free drugs.
He added that some of them died during the COVID-19 lockdown because there was no money for them to purchase drugs and sustain themselves.
“Our people don’t have access to treatment, they go to the hospital and buy drugs from their pockets. Most of the patients are retirees. Some are working but it is as if they are not working because the salary cannot take them home.
“Most of the patients spent nothing less than N30,000 to N40,000 every month on drugs. That is higher than the minimum wage of Nigeria today, and if somebody spends that kind of money on drugs alone, what is he going to feed on?.
“So, the problem we are having today is not because patients don’t know about diabetes. As an association, we are playing our own part. The problem we are having now is that they don’t have money to buy the drugs and that is why they are suffering.
“This is the reason we are appealing to the government of Akwa Ibom state to come and help our members by either ensuring that our patients get free treatment which is not beyond the government of today, because all over the world including Nigeria, more people are living with diabetes than HIV and more people are dying from diabetes than HIV. So, if HIV patients are getting free treatment what stops diabetes patients from getting free treatment.
“Even if the government cannot give free treatment they should greatly subsidise the treatment but what we are asking for is free treatment because we believe it is achievable,” Onung said.
He called on the people to always go for blood sugar tests as the best way of determining their status even as he urged them to watch out for warning signs such as frequent urination, passing large volumes of urine, being thirsty, and losing weight despite a good appetite.