HIV/AIDS: Transparency International, CISLAC allege inflation of prices of ARV drugs

*The organisations allege fraudulent contractors inflate prices of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs by over 50 percent

*CISLAC urges President Mohammadu Buhari to intervene in order to ensure total reform in the procurement process by National Agency for the Control of AIDS

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Concerned by the plight of Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS, and the decreasing donor funds in view of the current inclement situation in several economies across the world, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and Transparency International (TI) Nigeria have raised the alarm over alleged irregularities in the procurement process of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).

The two organisations alleged that fraudulent contractors inflate the prices of the ARV drugs by over 50 percent, reports Vanguard.

They also expressed worry that the practice is currently sabotaging NACA’s efforts to correct the anomalies by buying directly from the drug manufacturers.

Auwal Ibrahim Musa, Executive Director of CISLAC, while speaking in Lagos, called on President Mohammadu Buhari to intervene in order to ensure total reform in the procurement process.

The Executive Director of CISLAC stated: “CISLAC and TI Nigeria gathered that the contractors currently sell the anti-retroviral drugs at $13 per patient as against $7 given by the manufacturers.

“These exorbitant prices quoted by existing contractors render government financially incapacitated to adequately provide for, and make ARV drugs accessible across health care facilities, which record resultant stockouts, health hazards, and relapse of illnesses.”

He decried what he described as unchecked attitudes of the fraudulent contractors, whose unlawful activities hitherto dominate the procurement process.

Musa, however, commended the recent decision by NACA to purchase ARV drugs directly from the manufacturers at half the cost quoted by contractors and middlemen. He said: “While we acknowledge NACA’s plan to establish HIV Trust Fund driven by the private sector to support existing efforts of the government, we observe that without current support by the US Government and the Global Fund, it would cost Nigeria N50 billion to treat one million people living with HIV annually.

“Giving the existing cost-efficient practice by the US Government and Global Fund involving the direct purchase of the drugs from the manufacturers, we are worried by the ill-informed, pocket-serving and discrediting petitions by some vested interests, who have endlessly benefited from inflated prices of the drugs in the last five years, to discourage the ongoing effort of NACA to directly source the drugs primarily for sustainability and wider coverage.

The CISLAC Executive Director added: “We are also concerned that over-reliance on donor funds in the fight against HIV in the country constitutes a dangerous trend to sustainability.

“Hence, the need for the government to take full ownership in the prevention and treatment of HIV in the country.

“Corruption in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is no different from corruption in the health sector.

“In 2003, Nigeria’s ARV programmes attracted much criticism when treatment centres were alleged to be handing out expired drugs and rejecting patients.”

He referenced a detailed investigative news report of December 28, 2018, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), that hundreds of millions of Naira released for HIV campaigns, counselling and testing services ended in private pockets.

CISLAC and TI Nigeria prayed that fraudulent contractors who undermine the Public Procurement Act must be thoroughly scrutinised and discouraged from defrauding the government through inflated ARV drugs supply services.

The organisations as well called on the Director-General of NACA  to engage stringent reforms in the Agency’s procurement process for impactful, efficient and cost-effective wider, and sustainable service delivery in Nigeria.

They maintained that the D-G must devise an appropriate sustainability plan for the procurement of drugs and consumables through cost-effective and encouraged technically know-how for domestic production in the presence of dwindling donors’ support, and avert recurring of challenges thrown at the country by the Covid-19 pandemic, they added.

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