• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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Fake products further strain Nigeria’s healthcare system

Pharmacists, NAFDAC  partner to check fake drugs in Kwara

The influx of fake and substandard products in many Nigerian markets and their consumption have been said to be one of the reasons for the increased death rate in Nigeria, according to experts.

Experts have also likened the prevalence of fake drugs to an attack on the country’s healthcare system, saying they lead to loss of lives and confidence in medicines, healthcare providers and the health systems.

The recent discovery of various counterfeit products in Ezukwu market(Cemetery market), Aba in Abia State by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has sparked many reactions from all stakeholders in the health sector.

About 2000 adulterated products containing alcoholic drinks, beverages and other expired items were confiscated, resulting in the closure of over 240 shops-turned factories on the basis that they were producing, repackaging and marketing fake products in a filthy and unhygienic environment, according to a statement by the food agency.

While alcohol consumption poses health risks, according to many medical experts, consuming a fake one could be more injurious to one’s health. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that one of every 10 cancer cases in Nigeria can be traced to alcohol and 4.7 percent of overall cancer cases in Nigeria in 2019 can be attributed to consumption of adulterated alcohol.

Fake products, responsible for increase in death rate – Experts

Assailed by a weak health system and economic austerity as cash scarcity, soaring transport fare and low purchasing power, fake products are compounding the misery of many Nigerians.

Lateef Bolumade, a quality assurance analyst with Fidson Healthcare PLC, said “fake products are product’s counterfeit with striking resemblance to the original or quality products but with manufacturing process deviations.”

Bolumade added that counterfeit products are harmful to health and can be identified in different ways. “Fake products can be identified through the batch manufacturing records (batch number, production date, expiring date), absence of NAFDAC number, product and company’s logo and company’s bar code.”

The analyst said the onus is on NAFDAC to be more proactive in its fight to get the country rid of fake and substandard products. “NAFDAC can do better by non-compromising on fake products, increasing its surveillance, calling out fake products names and public sensitisation,” he said.

Following the confiscation of the adulterated products in Aba, issues of fake drugs, cosmetics and other household items resurfaced on various social media platforms. While other substandard products are harmful to the health, fake drugs are the quickest route to death.

A Lagos-based retired school teacher, Adeola Monsurat, said she almost lost her eyes due to a counterfeit eyedrop she got from a pharmacy in Lagos, describing the situation as “the most horrifying experience of my life.”

“When I was diagnosed with suspected glaucoma, I was placed on a particular eyedrop named Xalatan. The one I bought last almost made me lose my sight,” she said.

Adeola said: “I noticed the drug was not brought out from the freezer as it used to be and there was a noticeable error in the spelling of the drug. As soon as I used it, it was continuously itching my eyeballs until it turned red and swollen; it was the most horrifying experience of my life.”

Benjamin Ogunkanbi, a medical practitioner in one of the state-owned hospitals in Ogun State, said fake drugs are worse than overdose because the contents of fake drugs are unknown and could be hazardous to the health.

“Fake drugs are even worse than overdose. Once we prescribe medications and you get a fake one, you overwork the liver, and in the end, the liver shuts down and that’s death,” the medical doctor said.

A report by the Organised Crime: West African Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T), a project of the Economic Community of West African States, said illicit and counterfeit medical products from China and India were taking over the drug markets in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo, Guinea and other countries in the sub-region.

The OCWAR-T observed that the illegal drugs were often shipped from Guangzhou in China and cleared through the ports in Apapa, Tema, Cotonou, and Conakry, using intermediaries.

Experts have also raised concerns that Nigeria’s healthcare system is under renewed attack due to the growing prevalence of fake and substandard products. They identify weak regulations and enforcement as reasons why the menace has continued to thrive for so long.

The experts, however, called on the government at all levels to urgently roll out strategies to protect the people from the scourge of counterfeit products.

Similarly, the World Health Organisation has continued to reiterate that substandard and falsified medical products may cause harm to patients and fail to treat the diseases for which they are intended.