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How reduce counterfeit drugs, ensure safety of medicines, by experts

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To combat the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, a medical expert, Dr. Martina Agberien, has called for a multi-disciplinary and cross-functional approach.

According to her, ineffective enforcement of existing laws, non-professionals in the drug business, lose control system, high cost of genuine drugs, greed, ignorance, corruption, chaotic drug distribution network, demand exceeding supply were factors fuelling the scourge.

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Agberien lamented that the production of the counterfeit drug is a broad and under-reported problem particularly affecting poorer countries citing

She made the remarks during an online capacity building for media writers on counterfeit and illicit trade reporting in Nigeria sponsored by the American Business Council and Pfizer Specialties Limited.

The expert disclosed that counterfeit drugs have caused unnecessary mortality and morbidity and loss of public confidence in medicines and health structures as empirical observations show that there may be more counterfeit than genuine drugs in circulation.

“Due to the complexity of the counterfeit drug problem, no single technique can eliminate the public health threat posed by counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Substandard medicines are products whose composition and ingredients do not meet the correct scientific specifications and which are consequently ineffective and often dangerous to the patient.

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“Substandard products may occur as a result of negligence, human error, and insufficient human and financial resources Counterfeit medicine is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and source,” she added.

Agberien noted that reasons for counterfeiting include lenient penalty, sophistication in clandestine drug manufacture, collection of high taxes and tariffs from pharmaceutical products, demand exceeding supply, poverty, and lack of access to quality healthcare, drug shortage, and ignorance.

The expert sued for stronger state license supervision of drug suppliers and technological approaches such as radio frequency identification devices to curtail counterfeit drugs.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) through its Programme for International Drug Monitoring supports countries to develop sound pharmacovigilance policies, organise training and workshops, and establishes networks for information sharing.

A recent key WHO development is the introduction of a mobile application called “Med Safety”, jointly launched in nine countries with Uppsala Monitoring Centre and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The app enables health-care professionals and patients to report suspected adverse reactions directly to the national authorities’ database. WHO is preparing to roll out the app in more countries once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

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