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Pharmacists seek review of drug-handling laws


PSN President, Ahmed I. Yakasai

PSN President, Ahmed I. Yakasai

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Worried about the drug distribution channels in Nigeria, which is in total chaos and anarchy due to inadequate enforcement of relevant statutes, pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have called for a legislative review of enabling drug-handling laws.

President PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, in a paper titled “The imperative of legislative review of the enabling drug handling laws” said: “The drug distribution channels in Nigeria is in total chaos and anarchy due to inadequate enforcement of relevant statutes especially Act 91 of 1992 which established the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and Act 25 of 1999 which established the various State and Federal Task Forces on fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria.

“This situation is the precursor to emergence of a plethora of open drug markets in almost all the State capitals and major cities in Nigeria. The open drug markets have evolved as the major sources of fake drugs in Nigeria. It is also through their strong network that unregistered drug premises are fed to maintain the unfortunate hegemony of the fake drug business in Nigeria.”

Yakasai said an international workshop on fake drugs in 1988 revealed that 33 per cent of drugs which emanated from open drug markets were fake while fatality rate on consumption was put at seven per cent.

He said a review exercises by the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos in 1998 confirmed a rise in quantum of fake drugs from open markets to 49.6 per cent from 33 per cent while fatality rate had increased from seven per cent to 12.8 per cent.

Yakasai said extreme government munificence continues to encourage the spread and growth of open markets, which were few in 1988 when the first drug law against faking and counterfeiting was promulgated in Nigeria.

He added: “In 1988, the four thriving open markets were located in Idumota in Lagos, Ariaria in Aba, headbridge markets in Onitsha and Sabongeri in Kano. New drug markets have since become realities in Agege, Mushin, Ikotun – Egbe, Ajangbadi, Balogun in Lagos, Agbeni in Ibadan, Oja Oba in Akure, Oja Oba in Shagamu, Ogbete in Enugu, Gamboru in Maiduguri amongst others. Evolving drug markets have also been reported in Asaba, Kaduna, Owerri and Gombe all State capitals in Nigeria.”

Yakasai said the problems of drug distribution in Nigeria have grave security implications. He explained: “Experience has shown that the peculiar nature of the network available in drug markets is very large and effective. All that the enemies of Nigeria need to do is to lace cyanide or other toxic substance with active drug moieties and label such as any of our fast line drugs. On the delivery of these substances into the major drug markets, it will be distributed within 48 hours into the numerous open drug markets with the fall-out of substantial mortality.

“A similar event in the fifties in the United States of America was the Tylenol episode where some aggrieved employees of a manufacturing company laced cyanide with paracetamol. The resulting disaster was easily checkmated because of the availability of a well-regulated drug distribution network, which facilitated a recall of the fatal batch of Tylenol.

Such remains impossible in Nigeria as a result of chaotic distribution network.”

Yakasai said prescribing and dispensing of medicines is regulated by laws of the federal government of Nigeria, but some of these laws were enacted over 50 years ago and have lost their applicability due to lack of updating.

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