The Director-General of the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, recently declared the agency’s readiness to eliminate substandard and falsified medicines in the country through partnership with pre-shipment agents in China and India. The move, according to the NAFDAC boss, is part of the agency’s renewed efforts to take the war against importation of illicit drugs to the source countries.
This is not the first time the agency will take the fight against fake drugs to their countries of origin. The late former NAFDAC DG, Prof. Dora Akunyili, executed a similar policy. From 2001 to 2008 Akunyili did so much to check the influx of fake and unwholesome drugs into the country. We implore the officials of the agency and other stakeholders to use the new resolve to boost the war against fake drugs in the country as well as their foreign sources in Asia. They can also reintroduce the public destruction of seized contaminated drugs. We also urge the agency to ensure the control of the manufacture, distribution, advertisement, sale and the use of these products in line with international standards.
The distribution of substandard and illicit drugs in the country has unarguably affected the healthcare delivery system as well as the health of those that consume such lethal drugs. Without doubt, there may be more fake drugs in circulation than genuine ones across the country. It is sad that unscrupulous drug importers in conjunction with dubious manufacturers abroad have made Nigeria a dumping ground for counterfeit drugs. Therefore, NAFDAC’s new resolve to change the narrative must be encouraged by the government and security agencies at all our borders through which such drugs enter the country. The agency should aim at eradicating the distribution of fake drugs in the country. Having identified that most of the fake drugs originate from India, China and Indonesia, we believe that having a pre-shipment inspection agents in these countries will go a long way to reduce their importation into the country. In addition, NAFDAC must check the chaotic drug distribution system which allows unqualified individuals to sell drugs in open markets. We call on our drug importers to consider the health of the consumers while carrying out their legitimate business. They should put the consumers first before any other material consideration. It is worth mentioning that counterfeit drugs pose great threats to the attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6 meant to reduce infant mortality, improve mental health, and combat human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Therefore, everything must be done by the agency and other Nigerians to combat the menace.
There is urgent need for government and enforcement agencies to evolve tougher measures to check the influx of unwholesome drugs by unscrupulous businessmen. The other day, the House of Representatives at a public hearing attributed the influx of fake and counterfeit medicines to the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw both the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC from the nation’s borders and ports. With the rising deaths from fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, we urge the government to reconsider its decision and return these agencies to the borders and ports. In the same vein, the extant laws, including Decree No 21 of 1988, that prohibits the sale and distribution of fake drugs in open markets should be activated urgently. Furthermore, the government should implement the National Drug Distribution policy. We believe that the non-implementation of this policy since July 2014 when it was put in place might have contributed to the influx of fake drugs in the country.
The drug policy seeks to establish a well ordered drug distribution system, erect pillars and clearly delineated channels of distribution with roles and responsibilities that will ensure the eradication of fake drugs in our midst. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 10 drugs sold in Africa is falsified and substandard. These drugs include the ones that can kill or maim. Findings also reveal that some of these drugs contain little or no active ingredients and therefore prolong illness. NAFDAC must ensure that Nigerians have access to safe, standard and efficacious drugs.