Prices of anti-rejection drugs for kidney transplant patients at the Kenyatta National Hospital have nearly doubled, increasing pain for patients who have for years relied on subsidised drugs at the facility.
A tablet of Tacrolimus is now retailing at Sh64, up from Sh30 in December last year, while Cyclosporine is going for Sh260 from Sh185 apiece. Mycophenolate is selling at Sh140 from Sh100 per tablet.
The rise in the cost of drugs that are used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs has sent most of the patients into distress, given that the National Health Insurance Fund does not pay for post-transplant drugs.
Patients have for years been buying the drugs from KNH at subsidised prices but are now forced to dig deeper into their pockets, pushing up the monthly expenditure on Tacrolimus alone by at least Sh6,600.
“Prices have shot up and many patients who get drugs from KNH are now in a state of distress. Besides the high cost of living, they now have to contend with the increased cost of maintaining a transplant,” said Mr John Gikonyo, the chairman of the Renal Patients Society of Kenya (RPSK).
The price increase has been linked to a supply hitch facing the new firm that was contracted by the national referral hospital to supply the drugs.
KNH retained Emcure Pharmaceuticals to supply the drugs after the contract with Europa Healthcare lapsed last year. But the firm has faced hitches in sourcing the drugs that Europa Healthcare supplied, leading to high prices because it has contracted a third party for the supplies.
Patients take the anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, in addition to other tests and medication, making it costly for those from low-income households.
Some of the patients are forced to rely on fellow patients for supplies of the drugs, highlighting the dire financial situation in the face of the costlier drugs.
NHIF pays a maximum of Sh500,000 for a kidney transplant, for both local and overseas transplants, with the patients having to pay out of pocket for the post-transplant drugs.
Kidney transplant patients at KNH are required to pay an estimated Sh300,000, which is used for their medication for the first six months after surgery.
But RPSK says that the amount cannot pay for the costs for the six months, in the face of the higher prices, with most kidney patients now opting to continue with dialysis due to high post-transplant expenses.