The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, tasked pharmaceutical groups to come up with modalities that would help the government to expand access to cancer drugs in the country.
Ehanire said this in his address at a Strategic Stakeholders’ Engagement with Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Companies in Abuja, organised by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The minister said that the government was worried by the number of cancer cases traumatising people in all age brackets.
He added that “perhaps the seriousness of the cancer scourge is better imagined when viewed from its social and economic consequences.
“Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Health would welcome all constructive initiatives that would assist its efforts to curb the rate of cancer among our people.
“The ministry would welcome initiatives that would ensure easy access to cancer drugs, both in terms of cost and availability.”
Ehanire said he considered the meeting most appropriate and in consonance with the commitment of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to rejuvenate all organs of the health sector for unfettered performance.
He explained that the meeting underscored the administration’s strong support for inter-agency collaboration, as well as the Public-Private-Partnership initiative to create capacities and enhance the availability of resources in the healthcare delivery system.
“I, therefore, appeal to you all to ensure that you have candid discussions of all the issues on your agenda, with practical and realistic resolutions that will promote our chances of attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) on target.’’
The Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Mohammed Sambo, said that the meeting was prompted by the call for a review of extant NHIS professional service charges and NHIS drug prices from stakeholders.
He noted that there was a call to review the charges and prices because of inflation, which rendered some of the prices on the current list unrealistic in the market.
“The scheme has completed the review of both a professional service charge and NHIS drug list, new drugs and products have been introduced in the list.
“The NHIS Operational Guidelines recommend the use of generic drugs. Unfortunately, there has been an outcry among some enrollees that generic drugs are substandard.
“Our response to them has always been ‘NHIS uses what is called an essential drug list derived from the Federal Ministry of Health and WHO.
“It is an international document which is appropriated by every country and modified to suit its needs.”
The NHIS boss, however, called on the groups to guide against the infiltration of fake and adulterated drugs into the market space, saying “we all must, therefore, work assiduously toward checkmating this ugly trend.”
In his response, Mr. Obinna Emeribe, representing the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, commended the NHIS for the initiative of calling the groups.
Emeribe, however, assured NHIS of its support to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through implementing its reform agenda.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the meeting is “To Enhance Access to Drugs and Products for NHIS Enrollees and All Nigerians”.
Meanwhile, NHIS had earlier had a Strategic Stakeholders Meeting with donors and Implementing Partners (IPs) to engage them in ways of achieving UHC.
At that meeting, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, a cancer advocate and wife of Kebbi state governor, said funding was critical to having a vibrant NHIS.
She said it was very important to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure when it comes to complicated diseases like cancer.
“That is why we have to rely on NHIS to support cancer patients and I am happy that the Executive Secretary has promised that a lot is being done to support cancer patients,’’ she noted.