May 31, 2010

US, EU, Russia, China support Nigeria’s bid against counterfeit drugs

By Sola Ogundipe, who was in Geneva

Nigeria obtained overwhelming support from the United States of America, Russia, China , Australia, the European Union amongst others during the 63rd  World Health Assembly, WHA, held in Geneva, May 17-21, 2010, but India, Brazil and Ecuador made presentations that countered the Nigerian position.

The support was in favour of the nation’s bid to seek  approval for a resolution in favour of establishing an African coalition against the menace of drug counterfeiting on the African continent. In an exclusive chat, Director General of the National Agency for Food and drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, told Good Health Weekly that most advanced countries appreciated Nigeria’s passion about the issue of drug counterfeiting and how much the nation is trying to eliminate counterfeit drugs from the drug supply system.

Orhii, who presented the  position of Nigeria and 45 other member States of the African Union on fake and counterfeit drugs confirmed that the strong support for the African position was  led by the US Commissioner for Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

• From left, Director Planning FMOH, Dr Mohammed Lecky; DG, NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii (2nd left behind); Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu (middle) and Permanent Secretary, FMOH, Mr. Linus Awute during the opening session of the 63rd WHA held at the Palais de Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, recently.

“Most advanced countries now appreciate how passionate we are about the elimination of counterfeit drugs.” Continuing, he said: “Two other resolutions were presented by India on behalf of the Asian region and another one by Ecuador presented for Brazil on behalf of the South American countries. Their own resolutions were slightely different from ours in the sense that they indicated concerns about  the definition of the term counterfeit.

“In the South American region, counterfeit connotes intellectual property rights and the Indians were also afraid of the same issue. The South American draft resolution wanted the  limitation of fighting counterfeiting to inter-regional collaborations and not international collaboration as was presented by Nigeria.
Noting  the Nigerian position on the matter, he stated: “We are of the opinion that counterfeiting is a global phenomenon and must be fought under the international coalition made up of intyernationmal bodies comprising he Interpol, customs and other agencies.

“We are looking at counterfeiting as an area  that is most hit by from  the public health persperptive and not from the intellectual or commercial point of view.”

Ohii noted that to Nigerians, the issue of counterfeiting of drugs represents a matter of life and death because we are losing millions of our people on a yearly basis to counterfeiting.

“We want WHO to support the weaker African countries in he fight agains fake and counterfeit drugs because weaker countries that cannot fight this global phonomenon by themselves are in need avery strong mechanism undre the WHO to do this.

“Brazil and India countered with a request for the setting up of an inter-governmental agency looking into all the issues raised by Nigeria and the role of IMPACT-the In ternational Medical Products and Counterfeit Task Force, and the WHO.

“It is better for African countries to have a strong coalition against counterfeiting because most of these countries cannot on their own fight counterfeit drugs.”

“It is in our best interest to come together under the WHO to fight the menace. Our position is that African countries would go back to the drawing board and meet in Malabourg to sort out all the conflicting issues, get all African countries on board and come up with a unified resolution once and for all.”

Orhii was optimistic that the meeting would be held in time to enable a harmonised front involving all concerned parties to have an understanding of what the real issues are and to come out with a strong position that would be presented at the next WHA.