• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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How substandard drug peddlers deal blow on local pharma firms


In October 2010, Benjamin Haruna, Oyo State unit head, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), announced that 20 fake drugs manufacturers had been arrested 10 months within the year.

In July 2011, officials of NAFDAC in two different locations in Owerri, Imo State capital, arrested two persons – a pharmaceutical attendant and a patent medicine dealer – for sale of fake drugs.

During the operation, it was discovered that unregistered, fake and unmarked drugs with unknown addresses of manufacturers had been displayed in the patent medicine stores for some time.

In February 2012, the Lagos State Task Force on Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods shut down 14 illegal drugs stores and arrested four operators of the stores at Ebute-Metta and Oyingbo Mainland local government areas of the state.

In April 2013, NAFDAC carried out a three-day mop-up exercise on medicine outlets and hospitals in Gboko, Benue State. It was reported that tests were carried out on anti-malarial drugs using TRUSCAN machines. It was later discovered that though some passed the tests, there were some violations ranging from outlets selling unregistered products, failure to properly label products and sale of expired drugs by some outlets.

These and many more reported and unreported cases have over the years been the lot of the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry. Unregistered drug manufacturers have, in the past, been fished out of the dungeons where they manufactured drugs, after which they would push them into the market for human consumption.

Experts say most countries in Africa and other continents have had to tighten laws against drugs coming in from Nigeria or refused to use them owing to poor perception problem, resulting from incessant reported cases of fake and substandard drugs.

“The way other countries perceive Nigerians makes it difficult for them to use drugs manufactured here. Everything boils down to how we have carried ourselves so far, as Nigerians,” said Azubuike Okwor, immediate past president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), in an interview with BusinessDay.

NAFDAC, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharmaceutical Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholders have made efforts at different levels to curb the menace of substandard drugs manufactured locally or imported from other countries.

In spite of all the efforts, it is still difficult for local firms to obtain pre-qualification certifications from the World Health Organisation (WHO), partly due to image-related issues, say experts.

There have been reports that about 12 firms in the country have obtained pre-qualification from the WHO, a certification necessary for competitiveness in the international market. Experts who spoke to BusinessDay’s Real Sector Watch, however, point to only one firm in Rivers State with the certification.

 “If you do not have pre-qualification, you cannot be competitive. What we need is to put our own house in order,” Okwor said.

A  survey by Odili et al (2006) of 69 pharmacists in Lagos  revealed that of the 42 (61 percent) respondents who had come across at least an incidence involving fake drugs, only 13 (31 percent) bothered to report the case to the appropriate authority. Analysts attribute this to corruption and a loose control system in the country.

“Finding reveals the lack of interest of healthcare professionals on the fake drugs problem. These loose control systems are exploited by counterfeiters to manufacture, import and distribute fake and adulterated products,” said Olusegun Akinyandenu, in an article entitled ‘Counterfeit drugs in Nigeria: A threat to public health’ published in African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.