Weak legislation and a lax distribution system have been identified as responsible for the growing drug counterfeiting business in Nigeria from which the country loses an estimated N200 billion annually.
Aside the economic loss, the damage caused by counterfeit medicines on consumers’ wellbeing and emotions is high.
To this end, stakeholders are calling for proper enforcement of the new National Guidelines on Drug Distribution which is based on the provision of the National Drug Policy to ensure effective drug supply management with drugs becoming safe, effective and of good quality.
Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said that the drug distribution system of the country has remained uncoordinated, a situation which has posed a big challenge to the pharmaceutical sector with fake, adulterated and sub-standard drugs in circulation which is not in the interest of healthcare delivery system.
With the National Guidelines on Drug Distribution adopted by the Presidential Committee on Pharmaceutical Sector Reform (PCPSR) which was constituted in 2003, Chukwu explained that the guidelines will provide a distribution channel which would help identify sources of drugs at every level of healthcare and create orderliness in drug distribution system when complied with.
“The main attraction of the guidelines is that drugs will no longer be sold in the open market with effect from June 30th, 2014 as manufacturers and importers will channel drugs to only state drug distribution centres (SDDCs) and mega drug distribution centres (MDDCs) which will be established by the state governments and private sector.
“Healthcare facilities at all levels including private sector are guided by the guidelines in their drug procurement activities in order to avoid the current practice that is lacking in professionalism.
“The present states’ central medical stores (CMSs) can be used as the take off hubs for the state drug distribution centres. While the implementation of the guidelines is with immediate effect from the day of launching, states and the private sector are encouraged to effectively establish the operational structures and other necessary requirements. Drug manufacturers and importers are expected to strictly adhere to the provisions of the guidelines as defaulters face varying degrees of sanctions,” the minister said.
Lending his view, Olatunji Koolchap, national secretary, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), said that Kano State government recently closed down open drug market in order to improve the level of sanity in drug distribution within the state.
Nigeria remains the only country where drugs are sold in the open, with people engaging in pharmaceutical trading without obeying the laws of pharmacy practice, Koolchap said, adding that the National Drug Distribution Guidelines if well implemented, will ameliorate the chaotic nature in the present drug distribution system which encourages sales and distribution of sub-standard medicines in open drug market, among genuine brands.