By CHIOMA OBINNA
A call has been made for an increase in public awareness about the dangers of counterfeit drugs with a view to saving more lives in Nigeria.
The call which came in Lagos during a workshop organised by the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, and the Association of Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, NIROPHARM in collaboration with Health Writers Association of Nigeria, HEWAN, were of the view that counterfeiting had become a global problem.
At the event to mark the 2012 World Anti-Counterfeiting Day in Lagos, participants advocated for increase in consumer awareness of the risks and cost of buying fake drugs.
Speaking, the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, who advised Nigerians to shun buying and selling of fake drugs noted that the agency is doing its best to ensure that Nigerians are protected against fake drugs.
Orhii said the Agency has introduced various machinery to ensure that drugs and wholesome products are regulated.
His words: “The war against fake and counterfeit medicines is one that the agency has fought for years and there is no doubt that the agency has been proactive in ensuring that Nigerians have access to safe and effective medications.”
In his speech, the President of NIROPHARM, Mr. Lekan Asuni, stressed the need to encourage the public to take the problem seriously in order to reduce complications and deaths caused by the intake of fake medicine.
Asuni said that the WHO statistics indicates that 10 percent of global pharmaceutical commerce was in fake drugs while over 50 percent of all sold drugs in Africa were fake.
He said that the negative impact of drug counterfeiting on consumers was great as it exposed them to dangerous and ineffective products.
He noted that it also created an enormous drain on economies by depriving governments of revenue for vital public services.
Asuni who decried weak enforcement of laws governing drug counterfeiting said the chaotic distribution system of drugs created an avenue for counterfeiters to have field days in the illicit trade.
“They cause major damage to some categories of drugs, especially anti-malarials and antibiotics, because they are attractive targets for them.
“Counterfeiters are a big cause of recurrent illnesses, sometimes even fatalities. Simply put, they are merchants of death,” he said.
He urged more pharmaceutical companies to tap into the Mobile Authentication Service, MAS which some companies were already using to authenticate drugs to safeguard public health.
“This kind of technology will go a long way in restoring the confidence of Nigerians in the pharmaceutical industry and its products.
“Counterfeit medicine has done incalculable damage to the health and economy of Nigeria and we have to continue to fight back.” he said.