It is commendable that the Federal Government has set August 1, 2017 as the deadline to end open drug hawking in the country. The Registrar of Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Mr. Elijah Mohammed, described the move as part of efforts to regulate the drug distribution system in the country.
The PCN boss explained that the plan will curtail the menace of open drug sale. He attributed many challenges in the health system to open drug hawking and stressed that a lot of hawkers sell fake and adulterated drugs.
The PCN Registrar also revealed that coordinated wholesale drug centres are currently being built in four states where open sale of medicines is predominant. These are located in Kano, Lagos, Onitsha and Aba. He disclosed that the drug dealers in these locations will be moved to the wholesale centres when they are completed so that they can carry out their activities in a coordinated manner.
Mohammed explained that the wholesale drug centres will, among other things, curb drug hawking as there will be strict regulation of drug distribution and sales at the centres. He warned that anyone caught opening drug shops outside the centres after the specified date will be arrested and prosecuted by security agencies.
We welcome any measure that can address the chaotic drug distribution system in the country. The current system is one that encourages a flourishing trade in fake and sub-standard drugs. For years, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has been in the forefront of the war against counterfeit drugs in the country. It has also consistently urged the dismantling of the open drug markets in Kano, Ibadan, Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and others.
However, except for the purpose of using the four wholesale drug centres as a pilot scheme, the establishment of only four of such centres is not enough to stop the operation of open drug markets in other big cities in the country. There should be more of such centres in the country’s major cities. As a matter of fact, every state ought to have at least one mega drug distribution centre where genuine drugs can be purchased, if the nation’s health authorities are serious about ending the sale of fake drugs in the country. A mega city like Lagos, which has so many illegal drug outlets and a population of about 21 million, deserves more than one centre.
The mega drug centres should also be built in big local government areas for easy accessibility of genuine drugs. Government should also tackle the hawking of drugs in buses, motor parks and markets.
We call on all drug manufacturers, pharmacists, drug distributors and the drug regulatory agency to consult more on this matter and iron out the knotty issues before the August 1, 2017 deadline for ending open drug hawking in the country. Government should embark on a massive enlightenment campaign on the dangers of open drug markets and the benefits of the mega drug centres.
Building of wholesale drug distribution centres in some designated places in the country is just one leg in the effort to dismantle the open drug markets; another leg is the strict enforcement of laws guiding the drug distribution trade by the regulatory agency. Many of the fake drugs in the country are traceable to manufacturers in some Asian countries.
Government must ensure that fake drugs are not imported into the country through pre-shipment and post-shipment inspection of all imported drugs. If the government can eliminate the foreign channels from which most fake drugs enter Nigerian markets, the domestic channels can be easily controlled through the mega drug distribution centres.
The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) needs to be reinvigorated for the gigantic task ahead. The drug regulatory agency should be strengthened in its fight against fake and sub-standard drugs and foods in the country. Above all, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the deadline to end drug hawking in the country is complied with.