Pharmacists want effective drug regulation for national development
Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have tasked the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on effective regulation as a tool for national development.Until now, several studies have associated weak regulation by NAFDAC and poor funding of the Agency with rise in fake drugs and medicines abuse and misuse in the country.
President PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, at an event, yesterday, in Lagos, to mark the 25th Anniversary of NAFDAC, said there is still so much to do to get the Agency become a spectacular example of how effective regulation can be used as a veritable tool for national development.
Ohuabunwa said: “Firstly, NAFDAC must continue to improve its customer focus. It must treat all customers as partners and try to give them a good experience at each encounter. Secondly, it must further improve its responsiveness to customer mails, requests and complaints. As an agency that preaches standards, it must itself have standards when dealing with its stakeholders. There must be enforceable timelines and waiting period for registration of products or receiving other approvals. It must continue to simplify regulations.
“Thirdly, NAFDAC must continue to resist the temptation of turning the organization into a fund raising organization. It is common knowledge that the cost of doing business is so high in Nigeria, making our products globally uncompetitive. NAFDAC must be conscious of this when it fixes its fees. The concession in fees given to small businesses is a good gesture. Fourthly, the reputation of NAFDAC as corruption free zone during the days of Dora Akunyili must be rebuilt.
“Fifthly and finally, it is important that NAFDAC thinks globally but acts locally. It is visionary to target American standards but the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) is over hundred years old while NAFDAC is just 25. We all need to go through a learning curve and so NAFDAC must always bear that in mind while introducing new regulations and standards.”
Has NAFDAC used its regulatory role to enhance national development? The PSN President said: “This question becomes very relevant as we have often seen government’s good intentions in setting up institutions and regulatory agencies become an opportunity for individuals to feather their nests without much care for the common good or the attainment of the critical objectives of government. Some regulators turn their institutions in to agents of oppression and corruption.”
Ohuabunwa said in essence NAFDAC is expected to organise the food, pharmaceutical, chemical, and bottled water industries to ensure that: their products (locally produced or imported) are registered; and their products are of good quality on a consistent basis. He said it follows that any product not registered is not allowed to circulate in the nation and any product (though registered) but of bad quality is not allowed to circulate in Nigeria.
According to Ohuabunwa, one way to assess NAFDAC’s contribution to national development is to ask: Do we have unregistered products circulating in the country and do we have products of low or poor quality being offered to Nigerians?
“Indeed do we have unregistered products that are of low quality circulating in the Country? If the answer is no, that would be wonderful and indicate that NAFDAC has reached its zenith. But if the answer is Yes, then the follow up question will be: How has the rate changed over the 25 years of NAFDAC’s existence? What is the percentage of unregistered drugs today compared to 10 years ago or 20 years ago? What is the percentage of poor quality drugs in the market today compared to years back?” he said.
Ohuabunwa said the verifiable verdict is that there have been vast improvements on both score. What of the number of fake drugs in circulation? He said: “In 1989, it was estimated that the percentage of spurious and falsified medicines circulating in the country was nearly 70 per cent but I know of sure that today, we still have these fake drugs but the percentage is less than 20 per cent today. What a significant improvement.”
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