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Fake drugs: Nigeria seeks WHO’s support

By Sola Ogundipe, in Geneva
GENEVA-TOWARDS enhancing the leadership role of Nigeria in the area of tackling fake and counterfeit drugs and medical products, the Federal Government is today submitting a draft resolution appealing for the support of the World Health Organisation, WHO, through the World Health Assembly, WHA.

Also, it has vowed to tackle Viral Hepatitis in the country.

The draft resolution seeking for WHO support was passed yesterday after 30 African health ministers appended their signatures on it ahead of distribution today.

As the 63rd WHA enters the fourth day, Vanguard gathered that the Nigerian resolution is essentially geared to help sanitise  the current chaotic drug distribution system in the country while strengthening regional cooperation on the menace of drug counterfeiting.

The Minister of Health, Professor  Onyebuchi Chukwu, told Vanguard that the country was committed to the issue of drug distribution and counterfeiting and as such was using the forum to call on WHO to continue to keep the issue in the public discourse.

According to Prof. Chukwu: “On our part, we are pursuing increasing regional cooperation to strengthen the regulatory environment at regional and international levels.”

Shedding light on what the nation hoped to achieve in the short and long run, Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, said: “First and foremost, in the short run, it enhances the leadership of Nigeria in the area of fighting counterfeiting of medical products.

In an exclusive chat with Vanguard  on the global burden of Viral Hepatitis, the Chairman, National Primary HealthCare Development Agency, Dr. Mohammad Ali-Pate, said the government had risen to stem Hepatitis B, as it had been included in the country’s immunisation policy.

“In the long run, we will have a structure under WHO that will help us globally fight counterfeiting. I think that will be very helpful to us, especially when most of our medicines are imported. If we can have other countries fighting counterfeiting in their own regions, I think it will make it increasing difficult for counterfeiters to find partners in those regions to manufacture fake products to export to Nigeria.”

Orhii, who said Nigeria needed strengthen its own regulatory capacity before it could expand capacity, argued that the issue of making quality medicines affordable available to Nigerians is a national security issue that is being pursued separately under the WHO to help indigenous local companies to become WHO prequalified.

“There are a lot of challenges, India foe example does fee comfortable with the word ‘Counterfeit’. Just like Brazil that does not want an international collaboration they want regional or just within their own countries. We have meetings with them with hope that we will be able to change the situation and arrive at some compromise.”

In an exclusive chat with Vanguard  on the global burden of Viral Hepatitis issue, the Chairman, National Primary HealthCare Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Mohammad Ali-Pate,who confirmed  that the Federal government is ready to rise up to the challenges of the disease said Hepatitis B, is already included in the country’s immunisation policy.

Pate said the government provides immunisation against hepatitis B as from ages two, three, and four months to ensure the children are protected from getting hepatitis when they grow up.

“Ultimately we should be seeing reductions in cases of liver cancer and hepatits B. Coverage of the hepatitis B vaccination through the routine system is actually good in Nigeria, almost 73 per cent. It is one vaccination we have a had a very good uptake in the Nigerian concept and we have enough vaccines procured by the Federal government.”

Further, Pate said from the immunization perspective, viral hepatitis is not an issue for Nigeria. “The issue is to sustain such level of protection. There ought to be a routine system that works well. This means that primary health care centers with human resources and logistics and Local Governments providing the money and using them. So the fact at we are doing well does not mean we should just forget it. It will continue to protect our children and prevent them from getting hepatitis B which can contribute to developing of liver cancer.

“We have not been asked to make a presentation, as participants we will listen if there is a new resolution and see how it is applicable to us. Already we have high coverage and not like issues of polio and measles where we have measles eradication as a possibility and we are planning measles eradication. As part of our one very good vaccine.”


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