Illegal drug sales as well as adulterated and substandard medicine business has been in the news lately and it continues to be a topical issue for discussions and heated … …debates. And of late it appears that the regulatory agencies have stepped up their game, making heavy seizures and embarking on nationwide clampdown on unauthorised premises and dealers alike. In this write up PharmaTimes Editor, MORGAN NWANGUMA takes a cursory look into the campaigns of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, an agency operating from the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the latest controversies surrounding quackery and unlicensed facilities in the country amongst other activities of the regulatory and law enforcement agencies.
Recently, the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) seems to have renewed its battle against illegal drug sales in the country with the recent clampdown in Bayelsa State. Working in concert with the federal government the regulatory agency recently sealed off 321 pharmaceutical outlets operating in 28 states of the federation. Reports have it that a number of people operating pharmaceutical premises are quacks; they have not complied with regulatory laws and do not have registered personnel or qualified pharmacists superintending over such facilities.
In all the 427 premises inspected, 321 fell short of operating standard of the PCN thereby constituting a huge danger to people living in the states, according to the PCN inspection team. Feelers coming from the investigations of PCN show that of the 321 outlets in question, 36 are Pharmacy stores, while 285 are Pay Per Million Volume stores (PPMVs).
Mrs. Anthonia Aruya who is the Director, Inspection and Monitoring in PCN, made this information public in a press briefing following the recent inspection exercise in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. She said the premises in question were guilty of improper handling of controlled substances, unsanitary work environment as well as poor documentation and dispensing of ethical / prescription drugs and the absence of superintendent pharmacists.
Aruya said up to 13 pharmacies got compliance directives due to different offences, but the inspection trip and seal off of the pharmaceutical outlets marked the first phase of the agency’s current activities. She added that the public should watch out for more of such actions coming in the near future which she said is in keeping with the National Drug Distribution System.
She bemoaned the fact that during the inspections her team found out that a number of people embark on drugs sale without following due process.
“Others do not have the requisite knowledge or skills to handle all categories of medicine. The PPMVs on the other hand are by law restricted to handle over the counter drugs (OTC) that have proven safety margin,” she said.
She urged the public to always request for the registration status of pharmaceutical premises by asking to see licenses from such stores in order to ensure they’re not seeing quacks. Also, Aruya added that the law requires that all pharmaceutical premises get registered with the PCN, and as well make sure licensure is continuous so as to fit into the distribution value chain.
In her words, “The implication of non-licensure is the fact that drugs in such facilities cannot be guaranteed to have same quality and efficacy as set by the manufacturer since the unregistered facilities have not been subjected to regulatory control that will promote the maintenance of integrity of such products down the value chain.”
Illegal Sale of Drugs
Experts have continued to reiterate the fact that unauthorised or illegal sale of drugs remains the basic foundation for drug abuse in our society. Some of the most commonly abused prescription and OTC medicines are of course painkillers – specifically, opioids. For some reasons codeine containing cough syrups and tramadol have become very popular and thoroughly abused as they have been discovered by an increasing population of deviant youths in the society.
Illegal sale of pharmaceutical products and drug abuse has since assumed an alarming proportion, prompting the regulatory agencies and law enforcement officials of both NAFDAC and the NDLEA respectively to engage in an endless running battle to check the menace. On the other hand, we have also discovered such as has been unearthed by the recent BBC investigative reporting on codeine, that a group of nefarious business people have since cashed in on the abuse of such legal drugs to carve out channels of illegal trade routes to reap huge benefits to the detriment of the larger society.
And in the wake of the recent BBC documentary as put together by an undercover report crew, was the one that blew the top of the seething can of worms. The illegal sale of drugs has gone a long way to feeding the unending social quagmire of substance abuse by the youth in the land, especially in the northern parts of Nigeria. As the story went, a notable indigenous pharmaceuticals company based in Lagos was implicated due to the activities of a nefarious Sales Representative, alongside two other drug outfits, both in Ilorin, Kwara State, and subsequently penalised by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).