By Ndukong Sandrine
The Cameroon government has launched several campaigns to crack down on contraband, better still roadside pharmaceutical drugs but such shops still flood towns and cities. Now prices of drugs have increased and now, roadside pharmacies are where average income earners rely on for treatment.
Chang Kelly has been taking care of her 20-year-old kid sister, a sickle cell patient, since birth. Chang used to rely on medication from pharmacies but now she doesn’t. That is because the price keeps fluctuating, has gone off the roof, and the medication is again scarce. This is challenging for her because her income can’t afford the drug at the high price and, as such, she now relies on roadside medications.
At first, the folic acid she used to buy for FCFA100, now costs her FCFA150 and is not even sold in packets but cards.
“It has made me go to the roadside because it’s sold cheaper there that’s FCFA100,”. Chang told The Post.
She said when the drug is scarce in the pharmacy, it does not lack from roadside vendors and meanwhile it is cheaper compared to pharmaceuticals.
“I go to the roadside because they always make it possible for me to have what I need at a cheaper price,” she said.
Chang Kelly is not the only one suffering from the increased and fluctuating prices of pharmaceutical drugs.
Tati Faith, 25, a medical student, is suffering from body rashes and has been treating it with Prurex cream, which she buys from pharmacies. The price of this drug, she says, is not stable. This is affecting her, thereby, pushing her to the roadside.
“I usually buy Prurex cream which helps to relieve me from rashes for FCFA1800 from pharmacies and now it cost FCFA1900 and even FCFA 2000. This has pushed me to go to the roadside because it cost lesser there,” she told The Post in an interview.
For 23-year-old Minet Berinyuy, a student of biometric sciences at the University of Buea, who buys medical gloves for practicals in school, the sudden surge in its price has bewildered her.
“I used to buy medicated gloves from pharmacies for FCFA 4,500 from pharmacies and recently the prices aren’t the same,” she said. “They cost FCFA 8,500 and even FCFA 9,000.”
Berinyuy, too, has resorted to buying them from the roadside where they are sold cheaper.
“I discovered that it cost FCFA 5,000 and made me stop buying from pharmacies,” she added.
From several opinions sampled by The Post, the majority rely on contraband despite calls from the government against the intake of such drugs. Through government campaigns, roadside vendors are being accused of selling expired drugs and giving the wrong prescription owing to a lack of medical training at times.
At Amazing Pharmacy in Buea, the person in charge told us that prices of medicines do fluctuate like any other goods in the market, especially when a particular medicine is scarce.
Our source added that, when a drug is scarce and the pharmacy succeeds to acquire it, they will retail it based on how it was bought to meet the expenditure.
“We prefer to sell some particular medicines in cards if that medicine is scarce to patients so that everyone who needs that medicine will be able to get it.”
The pharmacist said they don’t sell such medicines in packets because, if they do, all patients will not have it and so they prefer selling them in cards.
However, with the increasing cost of living in the country, pharmaceuticals are no exception. A card paracetamol that was sold at FCFA 100 now costs FCFA 150. Many people whose lives depend on drugs are increasingly finding it difficult affording them at the pharmacies and are turning to roadside medicines.
In as much as the government is trying to crack down on roadside drugs, contraband shops are popping up every day. Two months ago, the Regional Delegate of Public Health in Bamenda was discouraging city dwellers from taking such medicine because two children died and the cause was established to an expired and unregistered drug bought from the roadside.
In Buea, some shops have been sealed for selling illegal drugs but, each time the owners pay to the authorities, the shops are unsealed.
The Post tried to get a comment from the Regional Delegation of Public Health in Buea to know measures being taken by authorities to crack down on contraband but was kept in the waiting for over a week and yet no statement was made.