Federal Task on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs is a team that is supposed to be led by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and its primary responsibility is to carry out raids on illegal outlets that stock fake drugs in this country.
That task force needs to be reactivated and be put to work to ensure that we try and clean up fake products in circulation. The Task Force is supposed to be supported by the State Task Forces on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs.
Hence, it is a Federal and State issue still led by officers from NAFDAC, the Pharmacist Council of Nigeria, PCN, the representatives of law enforcement agencies.
During the military era, it was a robust task force that was able to carry out effective raids on hide-outs or areas that were penciled down to distribute fake and counterfeit products. I am very sure that this task force functioned for some time.
At what point did it stop working and why?
The task force functioned very well during the military era and it functioned very well during the last tenure of the former Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Dora Akunyili. From there, I think things started going down.
It is unfortunate that the Federal Government did not follow up on the respective agencies that are supposed to be carrying out these statu-tory functions .
We as professional bodies have always advocated the use of agencies because we feel that the professionals should lead these agencies because we know that the professionals know exactly what they are looking for and they know where to get what they are looking for..
We have always advocated for the Director General of NAFDAC to be appointed as enshrined in the statutory Act which states that he/she has to be somebody who has a good knowledge of pharmacy because as the Chief inspector the fellow must know what he/she wants.
Apart from that, NAFDAC director general must be able to wield the collaboration of all parties that he is expected to reach out to so as to get what he wants. You know NAFDAC now is not working.
That is the truth and government should hold these agencies responsible. As an association we are just a project group. We will shout for government to do it’s work.
We will do our own internal cleansing to ensure that members keep within the rules and sanction all those that are found wanting but we don’t have the enforcement capacity.
We can only call on Task Force to collaborate with us to effectively sanitise the environment and I think the issue of drugs must be taken very seriously.
The issue of drug distribution and that of who handles drugs must be taken very seriously because drugs are actually poisons; t hey are potent molecules that can be poisonous when mis-used, when abused, when it deteriorates just like a nuclear molecule that is used in atomic bomb. Its disintegration could lead to explosion.
Drugs are chemicals and so when they deteriorate they produce different molecules that will have totally different pharmacological effects that could either be deleterious to the system or enhance certain side effects of the drug. So, we need to put square pegs in square holes to make sure that things move right in this country.
On the issue of fake drugs in the country, is there data to show the extent of counterfeit drugs around?
Right now from available data from international organisations the prevalence rate of fake drugs in the country is close to 40 per cent. Data is also another problem that we have in the country.
We have issues with data acquisition and statistics. That is probably why we tend to look at this problem with levity; hence people do not take it seriously.
However, a situation in which the fake drugs available is even one per cent, we should realize that we are talking about human life here, not to talk of fake drugs that is up to 20 per cent in the system, going up to 30 per cent and even up to 40 per cent, it is a terrible problem. We on our own have actually recruited a p h a rm a – cist who will start work very soon in our Drug Information Centre.
The major responsibility of this pharmacist includes the acquisition of data and carring out research and other public-based research. Very soon we will be rolling out statistics. He will be starting work this month. Very soon he will be armed with enough data for people to see.
One of the major reasons adduced for the existence of fake drugs in our environment is the existence of the Open Drug Market. Now the new date fixed to dismantle these markets across the federation is June. How feasible is this date?
The June date is feasible if the Federal Government has the will power. The PCN has been going on advocacy in the east, north, south and the west so that when the market are being closed down people will not say it has political undertones.
I am aware that during the time of Prof. Akunyili when she closed down the Onitsha Head Bridge Drug Market, there were a lot of pressure from governors in that region, creating the impression that she was trying to stop their people from continuing with their means of livelihood.
We must run away from that; drugs are not ordinary items of merchandise. It is a specialised product and so we should treat it differently.
These are products that the minute quantity can lead to so many things. We have so many high cases of cancers these day; we have so many cases of heart failure these days.
Some of these thing are not unconnected with some of these problems that we have. So, if the Federal Government wants to close down some of these Open Drug markets, it can achieve it.
Alternatively, if government does not demonstrate the will power there is nothing we can do about it. However, I believe that the Federal Government will sit up and show Nigerians that it is responsible.
I also know that if the government goes ahead with the plan, adequate preparations have been made for operators of the Open Drug Market to be rehabilitated.
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