By Sola Ogundipe & Rotimi Ajayi
HARDER times await manufacturers and distributors of fake, substandard, unwholesome and counterfeit drugs and medicines in the country with the recent introduction of novel anti-counterfeiting instruments called TruScan and the “Black Eye” by the National Agency for Food and Drug Adminstration and Control (NAFDAC).
Presenting the devices to Good Health Weekly during a visit to the NAFDAC laboratory in Yaba, Lagos, last week, Director General of the Agency, Dr. Paul Orhii, who described the use of cutting edge technology to fight counterfeit medicine and other unwholesome regulated products as an ongoing process, said the Agency was also utilison the SMS technology and Radio Frequency Identification System (RFIS) to checkmate the menace of counterfeiters and fakers of medicines.
On the Black Eye, Orhii said NAFDAC acquired the technology from Israel- a countrywhich is very good in security instruments. “It works like Truscan and depends on the principle of active thermography.
It is very advantageous , in that, it is a non- destructive process.It will compare the tablet that you are trying to check and tell you whether it is genuine or fake and if you ask from the machine it will break it down into its components and tell you what it contains; active pharmaceutical ingredients or it contains so much inactive pharmaceutical ingredients.
“The Black Eye now allows us work faster.
We can put 100 tablets, or even 1,000 tablets at the same time and it will break them down and tell you which one is good or bad. So it makes the work faster.
“We are working with the Israeli manufactures to tailor it to our need and very soon we hope that they can manufacture something like a conveyor which you just put a carton inside. We don’t have to even remove a tablet and check it. The device can also evaluate the packaging itself separately and tell you if the package is from the original company that manufactured it or not.”
He lamented that there was a time when a genuine product could be identified just by looking at the packaging. “If there was NAFDAC number, you could buy it because it was good and registered.
But now with the sophistication in packaging and printing technology, people fake the product complete with the packaging and NAFDAC number on that package may not necessarily be an indication that the product is registered.
On TruScan, Orhii described it as a device that is able to test and identify whether a product is genuine or counterfeit within one minute.
It is based on a principle called Rahman’s Spectroscopy. It used to be a big equipment but with minaturisation of the parts including the laser beam, it is now very small ane portable.
“With the Truscan, we can quickly scan imported products at the Ports and release them on time without compromising their quality. TruScan is a new invention by the US military that can quickly tell whether the product is genuine or fake.
“NAFDAC is the first medicine regulatory agency we have become the first in the world to use the device to detect the quality of medicines,, and actually set the pace for the US Food and Drug Administration as well as Germany, Sweden, Canada, to begin using the TruScan to check the incidence of fake medicine in their systems. “We started using it at the Murtala Mohammed Airport because there used to be consignments of fake medicine sometimes coming from China.
The success of the Truscan at the airport encouraged store to store to check and then state to state. “We have combed 19 states so far. We can put in a tablet and within a minute, know whether it is fake or genuine.
So we can go into a pharmacy and within an hour, look at most of the medicines in there. If there are counterfeits, we close the place down. “
On the reduction of the incidence of fake drugs in Nigeria, Orhii said within one year the Agency had reduced the incidence to just about 5 percent in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna.
“Counterfeiting is like a balloon filled with water; you push it on one side, it goes and wait for your hands and if you want to take the hands it can bounce back even stronger. So, you cannot celebrate that you have gained some victory especially now that it is even more dangerous,” he stated.