By CHIOMA OBINNA
THE National Agency for Foods, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and the International Police, INTERPOL have began a total clampdown on owners of unregistered drug outlets, drug markets as well as drug hawkers in Nigeria and six West African countries. The countries are Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Togo, Cameroun, and Senegal.
The operation tagged “Operation Cobra” was carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organisation’s WHO International Medical Product Anti-counterfeiting Taskforce, IMPACT and INTERPOL’s Medical Product Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime (MPCPC) to track down counterfeiters and bringing them to book.
The group is already establishing a rapid alert system between the countries for a possible network in the fight against counterfeit medicines and other substandard regulated products.
At a briefing in Lagos, Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii who said that the team had successfully raided 375 premises, added that 200,000 pills had been seized and at least 1220 police cases opened in Nigeria.
Orhii who said the exercise will be continuous and was intended to achieve a real transformation of the pharmaceutical distribution system to fall in line with best practices.
He said: “The goals as our compass in combatting fake and counterfeit drugs and other substandard regulated products is to prevent the introduction of counterfeit drugs and other substandard products into the market, bring to minimum the risk of consumers being exposed to counterfeit drugs, provide necessary tools for easy identification of counterfeit drugs by both staff and consumers among others.”
He said the activity expanded the national collaborative mechanism, bringing in the pharmacist Council of Nigeria, The Nigeria Police Force, the Consumer Protection Council and the Nigeria Customs Service into the joint operations,” adding that the exercise became necessary as national efforts alone were not sufficient enough to deal with counterfeiters of fake medicines.
Giving insights on how the raid in Nigeria was done under “Operation Cobra,” Orhii said the first phase was raids on drug hawkers, while a simultaneous raid was carried out in different locations within Lagos Metropolis, during which 30 suspects were arrested with their wares amounting to a 1X20ft container, valued at about N3,000,000, seized and awaiting destruction.
The second phase, he said, was on drug markets, where unauthorised kiosks and counters were dismantled at Idumota drug markets and Mushin areas of Lagos. In all, over 100 shops were screened at the two locations and some unregistered products were evacuated from the markets.
The third phase was the screening of registered pharmaceutical outlets, distributors and drug warehouses. Based on intelligence received, he said some of the pharmacy shops, wholesale outlets and importers’ warehouses were visited and TUSCAN was used to assess the quality of drugs found at these premises.