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Nigerian Sickle cell patients face N1 million a month bill as hospital admissions rises



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Nigerians living with sickle cell disease face staggering healthcare costs, with monthly expenses ranging from N70,000 to N1,000,000, largely due to frequent hospital admissions and costly medications.

Health insurance coverage falls short for many, with plans often failing to cover essential treatments like routine medications and consultations.

Government and NGO efforts to support sickle cell patients are insufficient, highlighting the urgent need for improved public healthcare infrastructure and more comprehensive assistance programs in Nigeria.

Sickle cell patients require extensive medical care, including medications, regular medical consultations, hospital admissions during sickle cell crises, alternative therapies like physiotherapy for pain and mobility management, and nutritional supplements.

Some may require additional care, such as at-home caregiving and medical devices like oxygen therapy.

The rainy season also plays a major role in the frequency of hospitalization and medical consultations, with hospital admissions increasing during this period.

Hydroxyurea: A common medication prescribed to reduce the frequency of painful crises and other complications.

Pain Relievers: Both opioid and non-opioid pain relievers may be prescribed based on severity.

Folic Acid: Essential for red blood cell production. Average cost: N1,000 – N2,000 per jar of 100 tablets.

Nigerians living with sickle cell disease are required to have regular consultations with hematologists or general physicians.

The average cost for one regular consultation at a hematology clinic in Nigeria is N5,000 – N10,000.

During these consultations, patients undergo blood tests to monitor their health status, with each blood test ranging from N4,000 to N8,000.

In cases of sickle cell pain crises, patients are admitted to a hospital and receive inpatient care.

The average cost of a hospital stay in a government hospital is N50,000 – N70,000 for all days. In private hospitals, the cost ranges from N25,000 to N40,000 per day.

Depending on the severity of the condition and the level of care required, monthly expenses for a sickle cell patient in Nigeria in 2024 can range from N70,000 to N1,000,000.

Joy Ogazi told ThePressNG that monthly routine medications could cost anywhere from N15,000 to N20,000 due to price fluctuations as a result of Naira depreciation.

Okeyoyin Blessing shared that she utilizes private hospitals, with monthly hospital admissions costing an average of N700,000 and sometimes exceeding N1,000,000 due to severe complications.

Ogazi added that she spends up to N50,000 on average in public hospitals, while private hospitals cost higher, sometimes up to N40,000 per day.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a genetic blood disorder characterized by the presence of hemoglobin S (HbS), causing red blood cells to become rigid and sickle shaped.

This abnormality leads to complications such as obstructed blood flow and the destruction of red blood cells. Africa has the highest prevalence of SCD globally due to the protective advantage of the sickle cell trait against malaria.

The carrier state (HbAS) provides some resistance to malaria, explaining the high frequency of the HbS gene in malaria-endemic regions.

Nigeria has one of the highest burdens of sickle cell disease in the world, with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 babies born with the disease annually.

Health insurance coverage for Nigerian sickle cell survivors varies. Most patients are covered by health insurance, yet the coverage plans cover little to none of the total expenses.

Plans that cover a higher percentage of expenses come with conditions.