Number of sick people in Africa not taking medicine rises

17:07, August 14, 2010      

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"I do not like swallowing medicine as their bitterness and smell forces me to vomit unnecessarily," says John Mbugua, a resident of Nairobi.

Mbugua is not the only person who has a phobia for medicines. Several other people fall in this category and to some, they rather seek divine intervention from their church ministers than to take medicine.

Unfortunately they fail to notify the physicians when they avail themselves for treatment to enable the physician prescribe an alternative treatment method.

Studies conducted recently reveals that this behavior by the sick people in Africa is causing worries to the medical doctors in the continent.

Many patients report to health facilities, with sometimes, severe ailments but upon receiving medication, they fail to adhere to the instructions for taking medicines.

Studies indicate that half of the people in the continent for whom drugs are prescribed do not take them in the recommended way and at times majority of people uses drugs inappropriately.

According to the Director of the International Network for Rational use of Drugs (INRUD – Kenya) Dr. Jennifer Orwa, the behavior has led to the misuse of drugs, more so antibiotics that are often taken by people out of their self medication.

Orwa however notes that adherence to dosing regimes is a major contributor to appropriate use of medicines and calls for intervention from stakeholders.

She observes that whereas therapeutic behaviors such as seeking medical attention, filling prescriptions, taking medication appropriately and attending follow up appointments has contributed to adherence problems have generally been overlooked by stakeholders in the health sector. "The consequences of poor adherence particularly to long term therapies are contributing to poor health outcomes and increased health care costs in most countries," she adds.

Orwa challenges health care providers to find a way of accurately assessing adherence and also factors that influence it.

She reveals that the survey that was done in five countries in East Africa recommends the development of a standardized measurement for all the countries.

She observes that due to improper pharmaceutical management in the region there exist high chances of people not accessing drugs. Poor procurement that delays distribution of drugs to reach rural population is also to blame.

Orwa reveals that 50 percent of 2 billion prescriptions that are filled each year in the region are not taken correctly due to forgetfulness, physical difficulty in swallowing, cost of drugs, and real and perceived side effects.

She took issue with the high number of unprofessional caregivers who dispense counterfeit drugs to the unsuspecting members of the public.

Orwa however absolved quacks from the blame saying that most of the sick people visit them due to the high cost of consultation fees charged by professionals. "Medical professionals need to charge their clients fairly as many people living in sub Saharan Africa are poor and are unable to avail 3 meals a day," she says.

The Director of Health Action International Kenya Patrick Mubangazi says that due to free medical service in public health facilities in Kenya, the general public's are now beginning to see improvements in their health care.

He says that the East African countries under the umbrella of the East African Community (EAC) have agreed on a uniform sharing of a pooled procurement price of essential medicines.

He calls on the governments in developing countries to waive taxes on essential drugs adding that the current trend is to blame for the high price of medicine in the countries.

Mubangazi observes that it was shocking to note that the price of generics is slightly cheaper in Kenya than the originator brands. "A recent study in developing countries found out that the price of essential medicines are cheaper in pharmacies run by the Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) compared to the private pharmacies where the prices are exorbitant hence above the reach of local people," he says.

The study also reveals that public health facilities in Kenya have 55 – 64 percent of Antiretroviral as opposed to private health institutions.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) has in recent past called for regional strategies in confronting the inequities and a lack of access to medicine by the public.

These approaches are aimed at promoting collaboration among countries, facilitate synchronization of actions, and strengthen institutions and regional networks.

Such approach has a comparative advantage where technological development is under consideration in regional settings.

Source: Xinhua


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