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COVID-19: NAPPSA warns against misinformation, fake drugs

The Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA) Inc has expressed concerns over the high amount of misinformation about the novel coronavirus and the activities of some unscrupulous  individuals who are taking advantage of the pandemic to market and sell unproven and illegal COVID-19 treatment and provision options.

The association therefore warned that the dire consequences of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria may take a more frightening turn if the country does not join the global effort to curtail the trend.

These fears were articulated in a recent release by NAPPSA entitled ‘Coronavirus Pandemic Update’ signed by Anthony Ikeme, the association’s president and Aloysius Ibe, the secretary.

“It is extremely important for everyone to know that some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus,”  the statement says.

“Fraudulent COVID-19 products can come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines,” the statement states.

NAPPSA stated that these are trying times when people and nations are desperately searching for solutions against the pandemic, which makes it easy for some unconscionable characters to take advantage of people’s fears.

NAPPSA thus urged the Nigerian authorities and regulatory agencies such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to closely monitor the market to ensure people’s miseries are not further compounded through exposure to dangerous substances marketed as palliatives.

They also urge them to ramp up public education campaigns to counter the misinformation about coronavirus that undermines the effort to contain the pandemic.

NAPPSA said this warning becomes necessary considering the fact that some of these fraudulent COVID-19 products and misinformation are promoted by healthcare professionals.

The association explained that as of now, there is no single approved product to either prevent or treat COVID-19 but rather that there has been ‘promising off-label uses of existing drugs, including chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, sarilumab, lopinavir +ritonavir, baloxavir, oseltamivir, tocilizumab, and sirolimus,’ that still requires further investigations and clinical trials to determine their efficacy.

“Clinical studies are underway all over the world to determine the efficacy in using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) is working closely with innovators to expedite these efforts, including leveraging scientific information about the virus and ongoing clinical trials in the US and other countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and Italy,” the association said.

NAFDAC had recently revealed that it would soon commence clinical trial of chloroquine in the country.

According to NAPPSA, there is a need for responsible dissemination of information about the global collaborative effort to curtail COVID-19.

As such, the association promised it would continue to give regular updates on these efforts as well as collaborate with healthcare professionals in Nigeria, and regulators such as NAFDAC to fight the scourge in the country and ensure it does not overwhelm the healthcare services as witnessed in Italy, Spain, the US, and other countries.

Beyond the pandemic, NAPPSA is looking forward to work with the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP) to build indigenous capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing to ensure that Nigeria is better prepared produce her own medicines rather than rely on China, India and other countries.

NAPPSA which comprises of over 7,000 pharmacists, scientists and educators of Nigerian origin living in the United States and Canada is working to support global health by enabling the advancement of pharmaceutical practice, sciences and education.

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