France-based pressure group Médecins Sans Frontiéres has sternly criticised Nigeria's healthcare system, which obliges patients to pay for HIV/AIDS drugs. The aid agency claims that this increases the risk of failure in treatment regimes.
According to recent research, 44% of patients in the country who take on the cost of their own AIDS care were forced to interrupt their treatment or took insufficient dosages. "Treatment interrupters" suffer from inferior immune system recovery and are more vulnerable to related infections such as TB, claim doctors.
The Nigerian government operates a subsidised treatment programme, in which patients pay NGN1000 (US$7.78) per month. However, those not on the scheme have to pay between NGN6,000 (US$46.73) and NGN10,000 (US$77.89) to gain access to medicines.
The cost of providing HIV/AIDS treatment is a serious strain on Nigeria, where 3mn people are infected. Currently, only 13,000 patients receive ARVs, and many of these drugs have been withdrawn from the World Health Organisation's (WHO) essential drugs list on safety grounds.
Industry sources claim that if Nigeria must now manufacture its own ARVs to effectively combat HIV/AIDS. The government has recently signed a "confidential" agreement with Brazil for the transfer of ARV production technology. Some research-based drugmakers are concerned over the reported willingness of Nigerian and Brazilian producers to manufacture copies of patented drugs.