• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Stiffer penalties will reduce drug counterfeiters-NAFDAC

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Over the years, the business of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria has been a lucrative venture despite its harmful effects on public health. Its operation has continued to worsen the state of healthcare delivery system, impacting negatively on consumers, exposing them to dangerous and ineffective medical products and leading to loss of human lives.

While the chaotic drug distribution network in the country has provided a leeway to engage in the business of counterfeit medicine, ensuring stiffer penalty to people who engage in the trade of counterfeit medicines would reduce incidence of counterfeit medicines in Nigeria. The current law for punishment for engaging in counterfeit medicines in Nigeria is 15-year jail term with the alternative being N500,000 fine.

Speaking with BusinessDay, Paul Orhii, director general, National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that Agency was pushing for a review of the law (Decree No. 15 of 1993) which set up NAFDAC to make the punishment life imprisonment as it is done in India including confiscation of assets of the culprits.

According to Orhii, “I would have wanted death penalty for fake drug dealers. Unfortunately, I had to come to terms with civil rights activists who believe that death penalty is no longer fashionable globally. Like it is done in India, we should sentence these people for life and confiscate their assets because we know that at the heart of counterfeiting lies the incentive to make huge profits.

“We want to take the incentive out by saying that if you engage in counterfeiting, you would lose your assets. That will discourage individuals from engaging in counterfeiting in the first place. We are asking for life jail term, confiscation of assets and in situations where we can prove that the fake products caused death or severe bodily injuries to the victims, then some of the assets that are confiscated should be used to compensate the victims.”

With the current proposal which has the input of stakeholders within the health sector, the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, to provide stiffer penalties for counterfeiters in the country, NAFDAC DG hinted that the proposal is awaiting submission at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) before forwarding it to the National Assembly for deliberation.

This move is coming as most fake, substandard and counterfeit drugs coming into the Nigeria’s pharmaceutical market originate from China. Parading Olisaemeka Osefoh, suspected importer of counterfeit drugs, the NAFDAC DG revealed that China had remained a problem to Nigeria in the fight against fake and substandard products.

Orhii explained that Nigeria was collaborating with the Chinese Government to unravel the Chinese companies behind the fake production, and punish them accordingly. The NAFDAC DG explained that the India Government has continued to collaborate with Nigeria maximally on strategies to reduce the importation of counterfeit medicines to the country.

“Concerning China, we are still trying to work out how to collaborate with each other. For now, without fear of contradiction, I will say that China remains the highest exporter of these fake products and China is a problem to Nigeria.”