The menace of counterfeit products

Recently, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) raised an alarm that over 70 per cent of medical drugs being dispensed in the country are substandard. The startling disclosure was made by the agency on its official website ahead of the recent national summit tagged held in Abuja “Re-imaging Primary Healthcare in Nigeria.”

It stated that majority of Nigerians do not have access to quality healthcare services, noting that most maternal deaths globally occurred in Nigeria where 19 deaths were recorded in every 1,000 deaths.

Feeling indicted, a sister agency, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), scrambled into the air and labored to debunk the claim by the NPHCDA. However, this is not the first time the alarm raised by the agency would be sounded.

Sometime ago, Mr. Andrew Nevin, the Financial Services Advisory Leader and Chief Economist, Project Blue PWc Nigeria, raised a similar concern in his keynote address at the opening of the 90th Annual National Conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) held in Umuahia.

Nevin lamented that over 70 per cent of pharmaceutical products circulating in Nigeria were counterfeit and substandard. He expressed the worries that substandard medicine trade was the greatest evil against public health as well as an act of economic sabotage.

He charged the federal government, the NAFDAC and other relevant agencies to intensify the war against fake drugs in the country, noting that it would go a long way in reducing the harmful effects of the menace on the citizenry and the nation’s economy.

Some other stakeholders at the event also stressed the urgent need for NAFDAC to continue to take action in multiple areas to create a comprehensive system to better tackle the menace.

In his speech at the occasion to declare

the week-long event open, Governor of the Abia state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, focused on herbal medications and tasked NAFDAC to check the perceived abuse in the certification of traditional medicines. Ikpeazu called on the agency to withdraw its stamp of authority from all producers of herbal medicines whose efficacy it cannot vouch for.

Raising the alarm over the increase in the number of traditional medicines in the area, he said: “I am worried at the use of herbal drugs. NAFDAC has not helped matters also. It is amazing to see different concoctions with labels from NAFDAC and to an average Nigerian, once you see NAFDAC number on a product, it means a seal of authority.”

He appealed to the federal government to regulate the importation of drugs as a means of encouraging indigenous pharmaceutical firms. He also urged drug manufacturers in the country to take steps to make their products affordable to the ordinary Nigerian.

Fake drugs are so deadly and are widely believed to be responsible for treatment failures, organ dysfunction/damage, worsening of chronic disease conditions and even death. Small wonder, hardly does a day pass by without television stations showing victims in need of assistance to handle health challenges like kidney failure, liver damage, etc.

The alarm raised by the NPHCDA should be accepted by all relevant agencies in good faith. Those who profit in importing or producing counterfeit drugs would not desist for as long as their killer products find their ways into the markets and sold by unsuspecting outlets in some cases. While we commend the efforts of the various regulating agencies, especially the NAFDAC which is in the vanguard of combating the menace of counterfeit and expired drugs, we urge members of the public who are the direct victims of these nefarious activities to pay more attention to the authenticity of the products they buy and also to report any suspicion of alteration of the expiry dates to the appropriate authorities.

Prevention, it is said, is better than cure. An aggressive public enlightenment campaign should also be launched by NAFDAC, SON and other stakeholders to sensitise Nigerians to the danger of overlooking the expiry dates on all products they buy. The prevalence of fake drugs as well as unregulated traditional drugs is like pronouncing a death sentence on all and sundry considering the obvious health implications.

The NAFDAC should also intensify its raids on pharmacies and patent medicine shops that are swarming all over the place to ascertain the quality of drugs on their shelves. Importers and marketers of killer products should face severe punishments like death penalty. Those who kill also deserve to be killed.

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