• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

As NAFDAC wields the big stick

NAFDAC destroys N985m substandard drugs

The news headlines on the recent activities of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) certainly paint an attractive picture of a federal government agency working assiduously in tandem with its mandate. Let us take a look at a few of these. “NAFDAC Targets Attainment of WHO Maturity Level” If done, that will place pharmaceutical products manufactured in Nigeria in a better pedestal to compete with its counterparts across the globe. That was on 23rd October, 2022. And on 21st November, 2022 the news was that: “NAFDAC celebrates World Antimicrobial Awareness 2022 Week”.

This was closely followed by a three (3) day virtual stakeholder engagements held on the 22nd, 24th, and 29th of November 2022. The outcome of the review of NAFDAC’s database for the pesticides was shared with stakeholders. Next was on 8th February, 2023 an important event which had to do with the: “Stakeholders Meeting on Implementation of Pharmaceutical Traceability and Other Pertinent Issues”.

“NAFDAC will collaborate with research institutes in the conduct of research and scientific data generation on pesticides, to enable the Agency make evidence-based decisions and policies.”

Subsequently, it alerted Nigerians of an “unwholesome” Sprite 50cl glass bottle drink with batch number AZ6 22:32 on its twitter handle, @NafdacAgency, stating that the contaminated glass bottle drink was manufactured on April 18, 2023 but has an expiry date of April 4, 2024. According to Adeyeye the product was discovered following a consumer complaint. Incidentally, upon investigation over five crates of the batch were found to be contaminated with particles!

The agency explained that the affected batch of the unwholesome product has been sampled for a thorough analysis in its laboratory. It directed all the agency’s zonal directors/state coordinators to carry out sustained surveillance and try to mop up the implicated batch of the product in question.

Going further, NAFDAC implored distributors, retailers, and consumers to exercise caution and vigilance, to avoid the consumption, sale, or distribution of the unwholesome product.

And on 2nd May, 2023, NAFDAC had a press release on: ‘The Recall of Indomie Instant Noodles in Malaysia and Taiwan’. Not long after, on 9th May, 2023, there was a press briefing by Adeyeye on:‘Breakthrough: World Health Organization (WHO) Pre-qualification Approval of Finished Pharmaceutical Product Manufactured by Swiss Pharma (SWIPHA) Nigeria Limited’.

On that same day there was a revised press release by the DG of NAFDAC on: ‘The Ban, Phase-Out and Reclassification of Pesticides’. On 22nd June, 2023 there was another Press Release on: ‘The Presence of Ethylene Oxide In Instant Noodles (And Seasoning) Sold In Nigeria’. With rapid response, on that same day there was the: ‘Investigation and Enforcement Directorate’s Addition to DG’s Press Conference on Noodles’.

One other significant assurance given by NAFDAC stating that: “We can track peddlers, users of illicit drugs anywhere in Nigeria after introducing a new “track and trace” tool to find peddlers and manufacturers of illicit drugs anywhere in Nigeria. That was made public on 11th June, 2023.

Worthy of mention also, is its frontal battle against all manner of harmful pesticides. It said that there was also an alert received from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) cautioning on the possibility that the EU and United Kingdom (UK) were exporting banned Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Nigeria and other poorer countries.

The report of the study conducted by Heinrich Boll Foundation; a non-governmental organization that claimed that 40% of pesticides used in Nigeria had been banned in the European Union (EU).

Consequently, NAFDAC placed emphasis on Chlorpyrifos and its variants due to their harmful effects on humans, animals, beneficial insects and the environment. It would be recalled that during her first term as the DG of NAFDAC, Adeyeye gave a directive in this regard. It was to review and analyze the list of registered pesticides and agrochemical active ingredients in the agency’s Registered Product Automated Database (NARPAD) vis-à-vis actives banned, non-approved or restricted in the European Union, other countries or by relevant international organizations.

To boost its campaign against the use of such pesticides other meetings with stakeholders in addition to a November 2022 meeting took place. These led to the giving of timelines for the phase-out ban of the pesticides, suspected of causing harm to human beings and animals.

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Ordinarily, pesticides are applied both indoors and outdoors for the management of pests, vector-borne diseases, and for crop protection. They are sometimes impregnated in textiles, paints, carpets, and treated wood to control pests and fungi. The bitter truth, however, the toxicity associated with the misuse and abuse of pesticides is worrisome as it affects food safety and food security.

Scientifically, the toxicity of pesticides is managed through stringent regulatory activities. The aim is to reduce severe health implications on humans, crops, and the environment. This can be achieved through awareness and continual sensitization of stakeholders.

Good enough that the outcome of the review of NAFDAC’s database for the pesticides was shared with stakeholders at a three (3) day virtual stakeholder engagements held on the 22nd, 24th, and 29th of November 2022.

The focus was on the proposed phase-out/ban of these active ingredients. It had in attendance, proponent holders of marketing authorizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Associations (All Farmers Association of Nigeria, CropLife Nigeria, Nigeria Agro-Input Dealers Association etc), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Research institutes amongst others. This feature of inclusiveness is another aspect of the policies and processes of NAFDAC that is worthy of commendation.

The import of all these issues is that the Agency is doing all it can to perform its functions in line with the cardinal aims and objectives for which it was established [1993 No. 15.]. It therefore, deserves both our commendation and support for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and prepackaged water, the agency has been in the news over the past few months for some notable activities.

To strengthen its outreach, pragmatic partnerships with the media, local government councils, non-governmental organizations and even the private sector have become imperative. Perhaps, with the new administration in place, NAFDAC can review its policies and programs and make demands for more funds for staff recruitment, training, purchase of chemicals for carrying out tests as well as working with the police and customs services to perfect its onerous duties to the nation.

For now, we all should assist NAFDAC to save our priceless lives from the merchants of death.