Expensive malaria drugs are not better, experts warn Nigerians

A lack of political commitment by the federal and state governments is slowing down progress in the national fight against malaria even as Nigeria has made steady progress in reducing incidents of malaria deaths, the implementation partners of the Global Fund for Malaria programme have said.

The partners also warned Nigerians against patronising expensive malaria drugs, thinking they work better.

The partners, the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the Society for Family Health, say that foreign donors, instead of the Nigerian government, are leading the national fight against malaria.

The Global Fund intervention is currently operational in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

Experts say malaria deaths have reduced significantly across the world with Africa still accounting for 80 per cent of global burden and 90 per cent of all deaths due to malaria.

Malaria deaths decreased significantly from 935,000 in 2000 to 438,000 in 2015, according to World Health Organisation figures.

Speaking at an interactive forum for editors of online publications and bloggers, Godwin Ntadom of the National Malaria Elimination Programme said Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo share about 41 per cent of the global malaria burden.

According to Mr. Ntadom, socio-economic improvements such as houses with screened windows and air conditioning combined with vector reduction efforts were measures that led to the elimination of malaria in North America in the early 19 century.

“Use of DDT and efficient management of the environment resulted in the eradication of malaria in Europe and South America in the 1950s,” he said.

“Sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated the least commitment due to ignorance (causes and how to prevent malaria); inadequate resources; weak political commitment and poor communication.”

The partners plan increased communication to change attitudes and behaviours as well as to encourage increased environmental measures to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Ernest Nwokolo, Malaria Programme Director at the Society for Family Health, advised citizens to look out for drugs with the green leaf indicator. He said donors had subsidised majority of malaria drugs with the green leaf sign for the benefit of citizens, urging people not to be misled into buying the higher priced drugs in the erroneous assumption that they are of superior quality.

“This is the biggest deception we are seeing in our country,” Mr. Nwokolo said.

“The Private Sector Procurement Mechanism means that the global fund pays money to the manufacturer. If the drug is supposed to cost one dollar, they pay 95 cents,” he said.

“The manufacturer sells the drug to people we call first-line users, who buy at five cents. When they come into the country we discuss with them so that they sell the drugs at nothing more than N100 and adult dose at N120. The drugs have a sign- a green leaf logo”.

Dr. Nwokolo said malaria drugs with the green logo are produced by the same company that produces expensive malaria drugs, and accused pharmacies of “maximising” the ignorance of the people..

“Because you do not know about that, when you go to these pharmacies, they will sell the costly ones because they make a gain.

“People prefer the expensive ones because when the pharmacist brings the cheaper one for N200, and the expensive one, the person will ask for the expensive one because ‘he wants to know what he is buying.”

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