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Dora Akunyili: The Drug Lioness

It is an understatement to state that Nigerians owe a major part of their health to Professor Dora Akunyili.
Born in Benue State, she enjoyed a happy childhood until the death of her diabetic sister Vivian, who died from fake insulin.

Upon passing her West African School Certificate (W.A.S.C.) with a Grade I Distinction from the Queen of Rosary Secondary School in Enugu state in 1973, she won the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship. With this, she proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) where she earned a degree in Pharmacy in 1978.


Upon graduation, she took on the job as a Hospital Pharmacist in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. (U.N.T.H) , Enugu state. In 1981, she became a Graduate Assistant in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNN. A lover of education, she got her PhD from UNN in 1985. By the year 1990, she became a Senior Lecturer and in 1996, she was made a Consultant Pharmacologist at the College of Medicine until 2001.

During this time, she held several administrative positions. However, her role as a Zonal Secretary of Petroleum Special Trust Fund (P.T.F.) prepared her for the job that will shake the Nigerian foundations.

In 2001, president Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her the Director-General, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). With her dedication, the fake drug market saw a decline of 90%. Some impactful was her service that by 2004, two assassination attempts had been made on her life.

In 2008, she assumed the position of Minister of Information and Communication and kicked off the ReBrand campaign.

In 2012, the award-winning pharmacist’s book, The War Against Counterfeit Medicine: My Story was published.

Unfortunately, Akunyili died in 2014 from cancer.

In this article:
Dora Akunyili
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