Tackling fake medicines, food products
The continuous proliferation of fake and substandard drugs in the Nigerian market has generated increased concerns by all stakeholders in the health sector.
These fake and substandard drugs have been considered a global threat to human lives, leading to treatment failure, organ dysfunction or damage, worsening of chronic disease conditions and the death of many Nigerians.
According to available information on essential medicine and health product information portal of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the proliferation of fake and substandard drugs in Nigeria has affected the credibility of the healthcare system, which can result to harmful effects on consumers leading to illness, disabilities and even death.
Also, further reports by the International Criminal Policing Association (INTERPOL), revealed that one million people die yearly from fake and counterfeit drug, as recent studies which evaluated the quality of drugs globally, showed that 9.1 percent of drugs failed the basic quality control tests, with an estimated 16.6 percent drug failure rate in Africa, about one in every six pills.
The Financial Services Advisory Leader and Chief Economist, Project Blue, PWC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin, at the 90th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in Umuahia, the Abia capital, stated that Africa records at least 100,000 deaths, arising from fake drug-related ailments, yearly, as counterfeits drugs account for 17 percent of the generic drugs in supply in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, in its quest to reduce the harmful effects of the menace on the citizenry and the nation’s economy, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is set to intensify its fight against fake and counterfeit drugs, by introducing a nation-wide campaign in schools, through the Young Pharmacists Group (YPG) of the PSN.
The campaign, according to the Director General, NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, will strengthen pharmacovigilance, monitoring of substandard and falsified medicines, and abuse of drugs, opioids and narcotics at the grassroots.
“We are planning to use young pharmacy group, these are thousands of pharmacists all over the country that we are going to use to give education on how much we abuse drugs and to do a lot of monitoring of substandard and falsified medicines, narcotic and so on. We are actually reaching the grass roots; we are going on a grass roots campaign all over the country,” she said.
Adeyeye, who disclosed this at an official meeting with the zonal, state coordinators, heads of ports and boarders of the agency said, the pilot programme of the strategic approach to curb infiltration of these harmful drugs in the country, will take place in six states – Kwara, Anambra, Kano, Osun, Delta and Lagos, adding that its launching would kick off in March, 2018.
“Part of what I am planning is to actually put NAFDAC officers in the different zones for controlled substances over site, we don’t have that right now and that is part of the directives I have given. The six zones will have officers dedicated for the over site of controlled substances,” she said.
She said to increase surveillance on controlled drugs, as well as wrong medications, an information technology would be devised to increase awareness and information on drugs to people through their phones.
“Right now we have alerts on our websites, but I’m going further and this is part of what the Information technology division is going to be doing… It’s to actually do what we did during the Ebola months, where everybody gets information on his or her cell phones, which actually saved Nigeria, we have a very good cell phone technology medium that we can use and I plan to use that. We are going to increase our presence on radio and Television just to increase the awareness,” she added.
In the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) West Africa sub region, approximately 60 percent of drug manufacturing takes place in Nigeria, underlining the huge sub regional market. Nigeria remains one of the most promising and rapidly growing pharmaceutical markets in West Africa with more than 150 pharma formulation manufacturing facilities as the pharma industry is growing at 13 percent yearly, with an estimated market size of $1.8bn.
Though, NAFDAC, has advocated for the passage of the bill, which seeks life jail term, confiscation of assets and compensation of victims on conviction, which has not been passed by the Senate. With nearly $1 trillion in drug sales yearly, the penalty for counterfeiting is punishable by imprisonment for between three months to five years or alternatively a fine of N100, 000 is imposed.
However, the House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services had enjoined the Adeyeye, during her appointment to maintain the standards raised by her predecessors. The lawmakers bemoaned the spate of drug abuse among youths, stating that substandard drugs had become commonplace, just as they called for new ideas to tackle the menace and the adoption of measures that will make the agency proactive.
Adeyeye, in response said NAFDAC, under her watch, will be re-energised to rid the country of fake and substandard drugs as solicited the support of the National Assembly to upgrade the agency’s laboratories, staff training and operational preparedness to help reposition the agency.
“Thousands of Nigerians have died due to the consumption of fake drugs. This is why it is in my heart to reduce the sale of counterfeit drugs to the barest minimum. We want to make NAFDAC greater. We need a lot of resources to do this and this is where the House Healthcare Services Committee comes in.”
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