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FG tasks pharmaceutical groups on cancer drugs

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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 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, Federal Ministry of Health would welcome all constructive initiatives that would assist its efforts to curb the rage 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 Public-Private-Partnership initiative to create capacities and enhance 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 review of extant NHIS professional service charges and NHIS drug price 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 professional service charge and NHIS drug list, new drugs and products have been introduced in the list.

“The NHIS Operational Guidelines recommends the use of generic drugs. Unfortunately, there has been outcry among some enrollees that generic drugs are substandard.

“Our response to them has always been ‘NHIS uses what is called essential drug list derived from 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 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 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.

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 on 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. (NAN)

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