The alarm raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the proliferation of sub-standard drugs in low and middle-income countries, including Nigeria, is worrisome. The agency said that an estimated one in every 10 medical products circulating in these countries is either substandard or falsified. The global health agency also revealed that it has since 2013 received 1,500 reports of substandard or falsified products, of which anti-malarials and antibiotics are the most commonly reported. WHO observed that 72,000 to 169,000 children may be dying each year from pneumonia arising from substandard and falsified antibiotics. It is estimated that 116,000 additional deaths from malaria could be caused yearly by fake anti-malarials in sub-Saharan Africa, with a cost of $38.5 million or N15.4 billion.
It is sad that Nigeria always holds prominent positions in bad global health news. The Nigerian authorities should do whatever is required to get Nigeria off these lists. This report should serve as an eye opener to the nation’s health authorities on the need to wake up to their responsibilities and stop the rising incidence of sub-standard medical products in the country. There is no point living in denial on the proliferation of sub-standard drugs in the country years after the monumental success achieved by the late Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili.
There is no doubt that NAFDAC, under Akunyili, reduced the incidence of fake drugs in the country. Unfortunately, since her demise, the war against fake and counterfeit drugs appears to have ebbed considerably. It is necessary to revive it. Unbridled proliferation of fake drugs is dangerous to society. Therefore, we call on the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, to redouble efforts to tame this menace and save the country from the attendant loss of lives and revenue. The agency should go beyond the denial of the prevalence of fake drugs in the country. It should do everything it can to stem the trend. Nigeria deserves a clean break from this ugly situation. A situation where people die more from the consumption of fake drugs than from diseases is unacceptable.
Nigeria has no business in the league of countries with a high circulation of fake drugs. With the earlier successes achieved by NAFDAC, we ought to have passed this stage. Nigeria should not continue to be a dumping ground for sub-standard medical products from mostly Asian countries. There is the need to institute stringent border control measures to keep such drugs out of the country. We should police our ports, especially the seaports, better.
Pre-shipment inspection should also be invigorated to curb the importation of sub-standard medical products. The law against fake drugs should be strengthened to ensure that offenders are adequately punished. We need stiffer sanctions for fake drug merchants. The prosecution of fake drug dealers appears to have witnessed a lull in recent times. We need more convictions to deter others from toeing the odious path. Those in charge of waging the war against fake drugs should not rest on their oars until the barons and sponsors of the illicit trade are apprehended, prosecuted and punished. The rising figures of sub-standard drugs in Nigeria and the other countries are unacceptable.
We call for global measures to combat the proliferation of fake drugs, to which all member countries of the United Nations must subscribe. Stiffer sanctions are also required for companies that manufacture fake drugs, and their countries of origin. This will go a long way in reducing the incidence of fake drugs globally. Government must sanitise the drug distribution channels in the country to check this problem. Let those involved in the ugly trade desist from it forthwith.