Nigerian Healthcare System Suffers Crises as Naira Depreciates and Drug Prices Soar

by Ikem Emmanuel
The Looming Healthcare Crisis in Nigeria: Soaring Drug Prices and Their Impact

In Nigeria, it’s a grim time to be sick or in need of medical treatment due to disease or trauma. The country’s healthcare system is facing a severe crisis exacerbated by the relentless depreciation of the Nigerian naira, which has worsened the already fragile healthcare delivery services.

From the pharmaceutical sector to healthcare delivery, the ability to treat various ailments in Nigeria is under siege. Hospitals, too, are not exempt from the chaos unfolding.

The Nigerian pharmaceutical industry is grappling with significant challenges due to soaring drug costs. This situation has driven importers and local manufacturers out of business, resulting in the unavailability of many essential medicines. The depreciation of the naira, coupled with skyrocketing inflation, has caused a sharp increase in the cost of importing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) and manufacturing finished products.

Currently, Nigeria is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the eight countries globally with exceptionally exorbitant drug prices. As of October 24, 2023, the unofficial exchange rate stands at N1,200 to US$1, while the official rate, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria, is approximately N800 to US$1.

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Investigations reveal that the cost of pharmaceutical drugs in Nigeria has surged by over 100%, forcing many patients to leave pharmacies empty-handed. Prices for common medications like paracetamol, chemotherapeutic treatments, antimalarials, antibiotics, antihistamines, antihypertensives, antidiabetics, and more have spiked by 200% to 800%. This crisis is affecting local medicine manufacturers, who rely on imported raw materials. Nigeria, which depends on imports for 70% of its medicine needs, faces a grim situation if immediate action isn’t taken.


Stakeholders are concerned that this rapid depletion of pharmaceuticals could lead to a major shortage of drugs and medicines for treating diseases. Additionally, the cost of medications in Nigeria continues to rise rapidly due to the increasing dollar exchange rate.

As a result of this crisis, many Nigerians are resorting to alternative treatments, such as traditional healers and prayer houses. Online pharmaceutical marketers are exploiting the drug shortage to flood the market with substandard and counterfeit medications, jeopardizing the health of patients with conditions like asthma, cancer, malaria, pneumonia, hypertension, and diabetes.

This dire situation reflects the urgent need for intervention to stabilize the healthcare system in Nigeria. The soaring drug prices, caused primarily by the weakening naira and inflation, are pushing essential medicines beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. In the face of this healthcare crisis, addressing the problem requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort from both the government and the private sector.

The Chief Executive Officer of HealthPeak Pharmacy in Lagos, Pharm. Azubuike Amakase, stressed that while several factors contribute to the high cost of drugs in Nigeria, the major factor is the foreign exchange rate. The majority of drugs are imported, and even local pharmaceutical manufacturers rely on imported raw materials.

He also highlighted the challenge of repatriating funds for forex trading in the international market, emphasizing the need for intervention and responsible use of resources.

Doctors and pharmacists are deeply concerned about the impact on patients, with patients struggling to afford essential medications. The situation has led to some patients resorting to alternative treatments and herbal remedies, which can have adverse effects on their health.

The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, called for the local manufacturing of essential drugs and APIs in Nigeria to ensure medicine security and contribute to the country’s GDP.


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