Federal authorities in Nigeria are investigating some drug stores in the country over outrageous hiking of prices of hydroxychloroquine, a controversial anti-malaria drug used for COVID-19 treatment.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how one drug store in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Ebus Pharmacy Limited, was selling hydroxychloroquine at an exorbitant price of N50,000.
The owner of Ebus Pharmacy, Boniface Ebugosi, said the hydroxychloroquine was an imported drug and that the dwindling value of the naira against the dollar was responsible for its high price.
Other drug stores in Port Harcourt were also selling hydroxychloroquine at N50,000 and above.
The drug was never known to be this costly in Nigeria when it was used only for malaria treatment.
It was sold at about N3,000 as of March in Nigeria during the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Drug stores in Nigeria began hiking its prices after a U.S-based medical doctor, Stella Immanuel, said in a viral video that it was a cure for COVID-19, a pharmacist told PREMIUM TIMES.
Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) said in a press statement on Tuesday, "Between 10.00AM and 6.00PM today, the Commission conducted simultaneous on-site investigations on Ebus and Avis Pharmacy, both in Port Harcourt; multiple locations of HealthPlus Limited in Lagos and Abuja, Tonia Pharmacy, H-Medix and New Health pharmacies, all in Abuja.
"Although investigations are progressing, preliminary findings show that HealthPlus indeed has carried at least two brands of Hydroxychloroquine with internal control documents showing sale prices of N33,000 and N75,000.
"Ebus (Pharmacy) admits the veracity of the post showing its price at N50,000.
"There is evidence that New Health Pharmacy has sold Hydroxychloroquine between N50,000 and N65,000."
The FCCPC's statement was issued by the head of the agency, Babatunde Irukera.
Besides hydroxychloroquine, the prices of other drugs used in COVID-19 treatment were hiked at the margins between 66 per cent and 89 per cent, the agency said.
The FCCPC said putting "unreasonable, unjust, and irrational" prices on products is a criminal offence in Nigeria under a federal law which protects consumers.
The agency said it is currently prosecuting some pharmacies and supermarkets for such offences. It vowed to enforce the law against any store caught exploiting its customers.
"It is unconscionable, exploitative and predatory to take opportunistic advantage of citizens on account of a pandemic and consumer apprehension," FCCPC said.