The Fight Against Counterfeit Drugs: Nafdac
The immediate past director-general of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Dr. Paul Orhii had prior to his exit from office been widely quoted as advocating for the enactment of new legislation to enable the agency cope with the present realities on the dynamics of war on counterfeit medicines among other challenges confronting it.
The former NAFDAC helmsman had hinged his call for a revision of the laws on the noticeable defects in the existing ones to enhance efforts of the agency to rid the country of unscrupulous elements.
We support Orhii’s advocacy because it borders on strengthening the operations of an important agency of government whose activities have direct consequence on the lives of the greatest majority of the populace.
Over the years, successive directors-general of NAFDAC have come up with different strategies to curb the menace of fake drugs, and each in his or her own way has helped to significantly address the problems.
According to studies conducted by NAFDAC, there is a positive trend in the progressive decline in the incidence of counterfeit medicines in Nigeria.
In 2001 alone, the rate of counterfeiting according to NAFDAC stood at 40% but due to the indefatigable effort of NAFDAC team under late Prof. Dora Akunyuli, the figure was reduced to 16% in 2005.
Despite the fierce war waged by NAFDAC during this period, counterfeiters kept coming up with novel ways of evading detection by the agency and other law enforcement agencies.
When Dr. Orhii, took over leadership of NAFDAC, he came up with a technology based strategy as a profound method of detecting counterfeits. The introduction of TRUSCAN Machines and Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) by NAFDAC meant that the agency had deployed a guaranteed strategy to secure many steps ahead of counterfeiters.
Strategies for the Eradication of Counterfeit Drugs:
To a considerable extent, the deployment of TRUSCAN Machines at the seaports and all entry points across the nation to carry out on-the-spot check of drugs before they are cleared into the country by NAFDAC, did help in dislodging the activities of counterfeiters.
Also, NAFDAC enforcement of text messaging system popularly called MAS, that puts the power of drug detection in the hands of the consumers who can send a direct message using the code on the drug they are about to purchase to verify whether it is genuine or fake equally aided in reducing faking of medicines.
Despite successes so far recorded, the continued threat of counterfeiters in Nigeria has reinforced the need for NAFDAC and Pharmacists Council of Nigeria to continue to take action in multiple areas to create a comprehensive system to better protect against counterfeit medicines.
According to experts, the problem of counterfeiting of medicines is on the rise because of the low risk and high reward involved, and the fact that penalties are relatively weak.
Criminals can make a lot of money by falsifying drugs that are on high demand, in short supply, or are exorbitantly beyond the reach of consumers.
We believe that this is the time for a review of the legislation empowering NAFDAC to operate effectively and efficiently in safeguarding the lives of Nigerians. However, NAFDAC and Pharmacists Council of Nigeria should be alive to their responsibilities especially in fashioning out workable strategies that will enable them to align their responsibilities with international best practices.
Suggestions on how to win the war:
We suggest that NAFDAC through its Directorate of Registration & Regulatory Affairs on one hand, and the Directorate of Enforcement on the other, should ensure that the provisions of ACT CAP F33 LNF 2004 (formerly Decree 19 of 1993) are strictly applied in documentation transactions with existing and potential companies seeking registration.
For instance, the law provides that in documentation of imported drugs, ‘’labelling shall be informative, clear and accurate’’. It also provides that the name of the medicine (brand name where applicable) and generic name must form the minimum requirements for registration of the drug.
Other requirements include: name and full location of the manufacturer, Provision of NAFDAC Registration number on product label, Batch number, Manufacturing date and Expiry date among others. In other words, compliance to minimum requirements must be treated as sacred.
By Morgan Nwanguma