NHIS to Launch Branded Drugs, Extend Coverage to Retirees, Aged

Dike Onwuamaeze

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has commenced the process of producing its branded drugs even as the federal agency is ramping up plans to extend the benefits of the scheme to retirees and elderly Nigerians, in line with the country’s journey to universal health insurance.

This was disclosed yesterday in Lagos, by the National President of Health Care Providers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Adeyeye Jimmy Arigbabuwo, during the NHIS stakeholders’ interactive forum, where he described health insurance as the penance to affordable and sustainable health care service in the country.

Arigbabuwo said: “The NHIS branded drug initiative has gone a long way. As I am talking with you the NHIS has invited pharmaceutical firms that will provide the drugs once we finish negotiation and signed the contract.”

The introduction of the branded drugs under the NHIS drug supply initiative would rest the perception that drugs prescribed for enrollees of NHIS by health care providers are cheap ineffective drugs.

The Deputy General Manager of NHIS, Dr. Bethuel-Kasimu Abraham, said the drugs currently being administered at NHIS accredited facilities were generic drugs like every other social health insurance scheme in every part of the world.

He said: “We (medical doctors) are trained to prescribe in generic and not to pander toward pharmaceutical companies. Our calling is noble and we do want to do anything that will portray us as seeking pecuniary gains. And in order not to create that impression, we must stick with generic prescription of drugs.”

A Pharmacist and the Chief Executive Officer of Wellness Healthcare Group, Mrs. Afolabi Adetutu, took time to disabuse the minds of enrollees that HMO patients are being treated with cheap and inferior drugs.

Adetutu clarified that administering generic drugs to patients under the NHIS does not mean that they were sub-standard drugs.

She said: “It means running on affordable medication of same quality, same effectiveness, same potency but different names. Enrollees believe in their mind that there are particular drugs stocked for fee paying patients and certain drugs for HMO patients. But nobody does this. There is a bias in the minds of Nigerians that once you are under an HMO or NHIS you cannot get the best healthcare.

“So, we have a problem of perception here, which is one of the things that is not allowing this industry to grow. We must encourage Health Care Providers (HCP) to find a way of handing over medication to patients with dignity.

“I think that the mannerism of handing these drugs fuels this perception that is destroying the uptake for universal health coverage. No hospital stores drugs that would be ineffective or inferior.”

Abraham also clarified that anyone enrolled under the NHIS was entitled to receive healthcare in any NHIS accredited HCP emergency irrespective of whether his/her HMO has a relationship with the hospital or not. But the enrollee must inform his HMO within 40 hours.

He also added that enrollees with more than one wife and four children could bring in more members of his family under 18 years and extra wives under the NHIS’ Group Individual and Family Social Health Insurance Programme (GIFSHIP).

He, however, clarified that the additional beneficiaries should be enrolled with N15,000 and renew their enrollment three months before expiry date.

Abraham stated clearly that benefits of the NHIS policy could not transferred to other persons because it negates the principles of insurance.

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