Prof. Mohammed Sambo, the Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) says the scheme is working with manufacturers to provide enrolees with generic drugs for better service delivery.
Sambo, who made this known in Abuja on Monday, said that the scheme had nearly finalised the necessary arrangement with drug manufacturers in Nigeria.
“What we are working on now is, how do we have drugs that are in generic form being designated as NHIS approved drugs?
“So that, if we agree with those manufacturers, just remember what happened during the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) you have a drug that has PTF inscription.
“Where ever you go, people get that drug and will not complain because they are assured of the genuineness of that drug.
“We are talking with those manufacturers to be able to agree on how to produce those drugs with NHIS approval apart from the NAFDAC approval.
“So, that wherever NHIS enrolee is, he will be prescribed those drugs and will not have any course to say that the drug he is given is not a genuine drug,’ he said
According to him, in medical parlance, there are two types of drugs – we have what we call generic drugs and we have `branded drugs’.
“Generic drugs come in an original chemical name which is used in manufacturing of the drug; they are usually cheaper but they are as effective as branded drugs.
Branded drugs are branded by a reputable name of a company, which is designated like every drug, like Paracetamol, that is the compound name, but it can be branded as Panadol.
“When it is branded it becomes more expensive because the manufacturers have to pay heavily for that branded drug and therefore, the drug will be more expensive than a generic drug.
“So, under the national health insurance and under even the drug formula provided by the Federal Ministry, it does not come in a branded name, it comes in a generic name.
“But, because of lack of understanding and education, the populace if you give them this generic drug, they say it is not a genuine drug but as far as we are concerned, they are not fake drugs.
“They are genuine drugs because they have the same chemical composition with the branded drugs. The only difference is in the name.’’
The executive secretary said the scheme would not ignore the complaint about NHIS being termed substandard, saying “ we will continue to hold meetings with relevant stakeholders to address these complaints.
“We will not sit back and say people are not educated, what we agree at the level of the health insurance scheme is to bring all the manufacturers of drugs in Nigeria to have a dialogue.
“In fact, we held a stakeholders engagement with them and we presented that position of misconception and how to address that misconception,’’ he said.
Sambo, however, said the scheme was working hard to reform NHIS so as to bring it under one roof to enhance proper coordination.
“For us to say that this is the total number of people that are covered under the national health insurance, we need to aggregate all these data and come up with the final figure.
“I told you earlier, the figure is growing by the day but I have given an insight of what NHIS has covered so by the time we build the health insurance under one roof.
“We bring all the states together, in the form of a coordinated system, and we have an over-hiking platform of ICT, which interconnects the operations at the national and state level.
“We shall be able to aggregate the data and give a true proportion of the people that are covered in Nigeria,’’ he said.
According to him, the scheme has registered close to four million lives under its formal sector programmes and the voluntary scheme.
“ This figure does not include the figure that states are covering; it does not include the figures that are private, who are subscribing through Health Maintenance Organisations. ’’