FG: Treatment for Lassa Fever is Free

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The federal government has debunked a newspaper report stating that the high cost of treating Lassa Fever was responsible for the high mortality rate recorded so far in the country.

In a statement issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, he stated that the federal government has ensured that Ribavirin, the major drug used for the treatment of Lassa Fever has been provided free-of-charge to patients, “for every single case of Lassa fever reported in Nigeria.”

“We read with surprise the headline in The Guardian newspaper of Sunday, March 11, 2018 stating that the prohibitive cost of treatment was engendering high mortality from Lassa fever. While we acknowledge the high cost of treating Lassa fever cases in Nigeria, especially the cost of the drug Ribavirin, we want to stateunequivocally that the federal government has ensured that Ribavirin has been provided free-of-charge to patients, for every single case of Lassa fever reported in Nigeria in 2018.

“Despite the significant costs, there has not been a single day of stock-out of Ribavirin in any of the treatment centres in Nigeria. In addition to this, the NCDC has ensured that every state in Nigeria has an emergency stock of Ribavirin available to manage cases,” he stated.

“In addition to Ribavirin, the treatment centres have been provided with other essential commodities required for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Lassa fever cases. The NCDC has had rapid response teams, supporting the state governments of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi for six weeks supporting all aspects of the response. 

“The state governments of the Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi States, with the highest burden of Lassa fever have also contributed significantly to the management of cases, ensuring that every single patient received the best treatment possible. All three state governments have supported treatment centres with dialysis machines and other equipment necessary for the treatment of Lassa fever patients.

He said the NCDC has regularly kept Nigerians updated on its efforts to control the Lassa fever outbreak through regular situation reports available on its website (http://www.ncdc.gov.ng/diseases/sitreps), as well as regular press interviews including the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper. Unfortunately, the newspaper house did not contact NCDC to confirm this statement before going to press.

The stated that Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole acknowledged and welcome  the support of non-governmental organisations such as the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), “as they have come to support existing efforts by the federal government and state governments who continue to lead the response to the Lassa fever outbreak”.

“The federal government accepts primary responsibility for the response, a responsibility that we take very seriously.” 

“The NCDC assures Nigerians that everything possible is being done, not only to respond to this outbreak, but to also build our capacity to prevent, detect and respond to future cases of Lassa fever in Nigeria.

“We urge Nigerians to continue supporting the diligent work being done by Nigerian healthcare workers across the country in this response. Once again, for further updates on the current Lassa fever situation in Nigeria, contact the NCDC)on www.ncdc.gov.ng.”