Diabetes expert calls for free treatment of patients in Akwa Ibom

Dr. Sam Onung, a consulting physician, has asked for free diabetes care in Akwa Ibom, same as it is for HIV patients in the state.

Onung, who also serves as the state coordinator for the Nigerian Diabetes Association, made the announcement on Thursday.

He was speaking on the fringes of events commemorating World Diabetes Day, where this year’s topic was “Access to Diabetes Care.”

He bemoaned the high cost of diabetes medications and urged the state government to give free medical care or subsidize prescription costs for diabetic patients in order to reduce the rising number of diabetic deaths.

According to the medical expert, an average diabetes patient requires between N30,000 and N40,000 per month in drug purchases, which is too much for the patients, the majority of whom are retirees.

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According to available data, approximately 300,000 people in the state are living with the disease, and they are suffering since they do not have access to free drugs.

He went on to say that several of them perished during the COVID-19 lockdown because they couldn’t afford to buy medications to stay alive.

“Our people don’t have access to treatment, they go to the hospital and buy drugs from their pockets. Most of the patients are retirees. Some are working but it is as if they are not working because the salary cannot take them home.

“Most of the patients spent nothing less than N30,000-N40,000 every month on drugs. That is higher than the minimum wage of Nigeria today, and if somebody spends that kind of money on drugs alone, what is he going to feed on? He queried.

”He said the problem they have is not because patients do not know the disease but the high cost of drugs and the lack of money to purchase the drugs.

“This is the reason we are appealing to the government of Akwa Ibom state to come and help our members by either ensuring that our patients get free treatment which is not beyond the government of today, because all over the world including Nigeria, more people are living with diabetes than HIV and more people are dying from diabetes than HIV. So, if HIV patients are getting free treatment what stops diabetes patients from getting free treatment.

“Even if the government cannot give free treatment they should greatly subsidise the treatment but what we are asking for is free treatment because we believe it is achievable,” Onung said.

He called on the people to always go for their blood sugar test as the best way of determining their status even as he urged them to watch out for warning signs such as frequent urination, passing large volumes of urine, being thirsty and losing weight despite good appetite etc.

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