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Navigating Medication Access Challenges in Kidney Patients: A Perspective from Nigeria – World Kidney Day 2024

Rev. Canon Victor A. I. Ezeibe, from Nigeria, explores the challenges in accessing essential medications as a kidney transplant recipient. The blog unravels the intricate process of obtaining drugs from abroad, while shedding light on the inherent risks, including lost shipments. The blog emphasizes the pivotal role of uninterrupted medication access for kidney patients, urging the need to navigate and break down financial barriers and access challenges prevalent in low- and middle-income countries.

The greatest challenge being faced by any kidney transplanted person is accessing routine medications which are for life. It is important to note that in Nigeria, where I am from, all major medications come from abroad, and so their access and their availability can present a serious challenge. 

Access to medicines in Nigeria often involves one of the following: courier service, an agent, someone you know visiting or coming back to Nigeria.

It is also worth mentioning that issues with postage can also happen. I once had a bad experience with this, and my medications got lost. It took time, money, and stress before they were recovered.

The cost of medications is also constantly fluctuating and dependent on the Dollar rate. In my specific case, treatment costs amount to over a million Nigerian naira (and this does not include the cost of check-ups). This needs to be considered in the context of increased cost of living and inflation in the country, now worsened by the removal of fuel subsidy.

There are also a few important tests that a transplanted kidney patient needs. These include blood pressure measurements, several blood tests, urine tests, echocardiograms, abdominal ultrasounds, etc. These tests cost huge sums of money, and some are even done outside of the country.

The global Covid-19 Pandemic era took a toll on many, particularly on post-transplant kidney transplant kidney patient, making it impossible to access medications and undertake tests and annual check-ups. At the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, all borders were closed. I contacted my agents in India, and I was told that markets and shops were fully closed and therefore I could not access my medicines through that route.

My doctor in Enugu had to connect me to a pharmacy in Abuja after all efforts to access medications failed. I was able to get my medications through the post, but for this I had to go to Lagos, fly to Port Harcourt, reach Onitsha and then Ekwulobia.  When I arrived there, I found out that my medications could not reach Ekwulobia and had been dropped at Igbo Ukwu Police Post and I was able to collect them the next day with great difficulties.

Since then, I have been accessing my medications from either Abuja or Onitsha at exorbitant prices, which I call the ‘’gains of Covid -19’’.

The discharge note once given to me by the hospital management team clearly summarises how vital it is to have constant access to medicines: ‘’If you want to embark on any journey, you may forget any item but your medications, because you can easily access any of the items you forgot but not your medications’’. This is a serious issue, because one cannot find most of the major medications in any Nigerian pharmacy.

It goes without saying that if a kidney transplanted person does not take their medications regularly and, when these are due, conduct necessary tests, they are bound to suffer rejection leading to loss of the kidney and death.

I will conclude by saying that it is clear to me that the success and survival of transplanted kidney patients is dependent on the person’s ability to constantly access their medications, undertake important tests as well as being able to navigate and overcome the increasing costs of treatment and barriers in access to medications in certain areas of the world.

Thank you and God bless you.

Disclaimer: The blog series is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to endorse or promote any specific drug, product, or brand. Each individual’s experience is unique and should not be construed as medical advice or a guarantee of similar results for others. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding your health and well-being.