By Moses Nosike
Sir Orimadegun Agboade is the Managing Director and CEO, Orfema Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. In this interview, he explains why there are more fake and substandard products in circulation in the Nigerian market today.
Whatâ€™s the business of Orfema?
Orfema is owned by Nigerians with no foreign partnership or support .Â Before now, we have been marketing pharmaceutical raw materials, until two years ago when we got approval for our brand new manufacturing outfit at Fagba, Lagos.
Orfema stands for three legs. First is the tradition of importing and distributing pharmaceutical raw materials to all known manufacturers of medicine in the past and now in Nigeria. It has expanded to include marketing, detailing of medical products which we import and sell with our 17 sales representatives in Nigeria. The third is a manufacturing outfit.
The rate of fake and substandard in circulation today makes it difficult for one to identify the real brand, in spite the efforts of the regulating authorities, what do you think should be to reduce it to the bearest minimum?
Let me first say that regulating authorities are trying, and in fact, their efforts have starting yielding dividends. Now as what to do to reduce fake drugs. Maybe that will mean to define what fake means. Fake and counterfeit go together. But all of them now under the new definition is regarded as fake.
I think if we look at it from this perspective then we will be able to proffer solution or what can be done to reduce it. Let me also add that in every organisation, there is also bad eggs. So, we cannot eradicate it totally. But we can reduce it to the bearest minimum. Now a lot of things can be taken into consideration. First, if you look at the word counterfeit and fake, you can talk of imported ones. We also have fake which can be defined in terms of substandard nature of what they re doing.
Here, I think the policing of ports and borders, may be need to be reviewed and look at where there are loopholes. In recent times, we read it in the dailies that some containers caught on the roads pass through the port. The question is how did they come in. The numerous border routes along our border line need proper policing. The port inspection procedures could be reviewed to make sure that all the containers are properly checked before leaving the port.
The second point, which is related to the port ,which I want to suggest is under perfect inspection.
There are equipment these days that are used to make inspection procedures easier. So, I would want to suggest though itâ€™s cumbersome but we can do it or even periodically take time get to the bottom of it and when people see that the inspection at various ports are 100 % people will be afraid to bring in most of these fakes into the country. The other point could be with the drug markets and shops.
This open market, you donâ€™t ask somebody to bring something without giving him alternative. They said they donâ€™t want market in Idumota and all that, fine, I agree. But letâ€™s create atmosphere where these business people can get shops, registered, many of them are wealthy.
They can afford to employ pharmacists, get their premises registered, but I donâ€™t think there is a deliberate attempt to order the way the structuring will be. I donâ€™t consider it right to go there, drive them out and lock their shops. Give them alternatives places, lock-up shops, give them all the facilities even if possible give them template of whom to employ and how to get their premises registered. I think that will be beneficial for the country.
Then, when you look at the other side that is the substandard, the locally produced, there are insinuations that a lot of our products being manufactured locally, many of them donâ€™t contain what they should contain, for instance Paracetamol supposed to be 500mg. Some people insinuated that there could be some in the market that is for 250% . They just package chock and anybody swallowing that is dangerous.
So, to detect that I want to suggest that, NAFDAC in addition to what theyâ€™re doing, should pick a pack of Orfema product and any other personâ€™s product to the laboratory at random and check if they fail to meet with what they put on the pack, then show it to them, it could be fake and as soon as itâ€™s traced to them, the company will now go back to the process to make sure itâ€™s done properly.
Sometimes, because of the challenging business environment, a lot of people look for short cut to make it and so doing producing fakes.
You would suggest that NAFDAC at random takes certain products to laboratory to check fakes, what in a situation where people produce fake but use original pack of a particular brand, how can this be traced if taken to laboratory?
Thatâ€™s a good point. I think itâ€™s a good challenge in this respect.
But NAFDAC is trying to introduce what we call hologram on the packs, even that there is still evidence that people can fake packs with hologram. Hologram is something that is applied on the pack and it cannot rub off, that is the specialty. NAFDAC is also doing another one which Iâ€™m sure is in advanced stage now which you can check from your handset when you dial a number provided to get the facts; the date and producer of a product and so on and so forth.
I believe by the time we get all those things in place, those people will not have any place to hide.
Some blame the rate of unemployment in the country as being responsible for this menace, do you share same opinion?
I agree with that to some certain extend. My believe is that if people can get things done in a right way, without having to bride and the environment is friendly. It might not be all. But a lot of people on faking would want to try the normal way. Iâ€™m agreeing that the environment is unfriendly, things are very harsh. Not many people can say I want to do business in a genuine way and stand by it.
Manufacturers provide everything for production and that is driving many out of business. So the harsh environment contributed a great deal to this problem of faking. So, if the environment is friendly and government gets things done properly a lot of things will change for the better. For instance, power supply, weâ€™ve been teased for a very long time. Weâ€™ve been promised that before the end of last year, 6000MW will be achieved, but till now is even reducing for worse.
As an industrialist, how can we promote drug business and discourage expired ones in circulation?
Well, there are moves through NAFDAC towards that.Â What we know is that some of our facilities are not what they should be, but if government can pump in money in form of loan in unit digit interest rate Iâ€™m not saying it should be free, for us to develop our facilities, it will discourage a lot of this faking and all that.
Secondly, FG should form alliance with those countries that are exporting to us. For instance, I was in India last year and it coincided with the time when their government is passing a law that anybody that manufactures fake products is going for life imprisonment. How did they do that, is because this thing was brought into Nigeria by the activity of Indian government and the Nigerian government got it and push it back to them. And it was the time we were in India for a programme of PHARMACIL, which India invited some Nigerians even the director general of NAFDAC was there with us.
That makes producers to upgrade their facilities. When I travelled I saw manufacturing facilities that are of higher grading. I was thrilled. Because I want this thing to outlive me, I have the mind to go for a loan in order to upgrade our facilities in view of what I have seen in most of the manufacturing facilities. And again they stated rightly with Small and Medium Enterprises, that makes it before you walk 2 to 3 kilomitres you see 5 to 6 companies in a street. Unlike us, from Iju here the next pharmaceutical company is in Ikeja.
Who wants to invest? Nobody wants to go into it because itâ€™s very stressful. And money is not there and government is not encouraging. Please government should encourage local manufacturers.