December 26, 2016

Stakeholders in health sector renew fight against fake drugs

Stakeholders in health sector renew fight against fake drugs

File photo: Fake drugs about to be destroyed.

By Victoria Ojeme

THESE are not the best of times for Nigeria and Nigerians economically, even as the Federal and State goverments are not resting on their oars to respond to the challenges of the economic downturn.

Estimates show that about $12 billion is lost in wages and salaries annually in the country due to activities of producers of fake, counterfeit, unwholesome and substandard medicines.

One Federal agency that is living up to the expectation of Nigerians in cushioning the biting effects of the recession, is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.

Consumer safety: Tasked with the role of ensuring consumer safety through   guarding against the importation, production, sale and consumption of fake, counterfeit and unwholesome chemicals, foods and pharmaceutical consumables, the Agency has been at the forefront of a relentless campaign to keep the Nigerian economy afloat while upkeeping the good health of Nigerians.

NAFDAC recently met with  stakeholders in the pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries to rub minds on effects of  the current recession  and to also proffer solutions.

The stakeholders were notified of the Agenvy’s plans  to mop up and destroy all imported brands of fruit juice in the country beginning from 2017.

At the gathering comprising pharmacists, fast food and packaged water producers, the security agencies, Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Immigration Service, Civil Defence Corps and the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency, NAFDAC  leveraged on efforts to destroy  fake, substandard, adulterated and expired regulated products in all states in the north central geopolitical zone of the country.

‘In the view of the Acting Director-General of the Agency, Mrs. Yetunde Oni: ”Billions of naira worth of packaged water, both in bottle and sachet, which is under NAFDAC watch, is consumed in the country every day, especially on Saturdays because of the high number of ceremonies every weekend.

File photo: Fake drugs about to be destroyed.

Diversitication of economy

“This, therefore, implies that NAFDAC is a key and critical agency in the effort of the Federal government to diversify the economy and also has the capacity to contribute immensely in the attainment of the change agenda of the Federal government,” Oni explained.

At the forum, she said the destruction of the fake, substandard and expired products which is a periodic exercise, further gives credence to the fact that NAFDAC is continuously waging war against persons or organisations involved in counterfeiting of regulated products and also discharging her functions in line with her mandate.

“In 2014, we carried out destruction of over N120 million worth of fake and counterfeit medicines and other regulated products in the FCT and we are happy that this figure is down to N75 million in 2016.

“This is an indicator of NAFDAC’s strengthened enforcement and surveillance systems. We are optimistic that in the near future, we would have little or nothing to destroy as we work towards ensuring availability of good quality, efficacious, safe and affordable medicines and wholesome regulated products to the Nigerian populace.”

Innovation: Over the years, NAFDAC has introduced innovative tools and cutting edge technology against fake, counterfeit and unwholesome products in the country. Amongst these are the Mobile Authentication Service, MAS, Truscan and Black Eye technology.

The Truscan technology works with mobile phones and enables consumers check whether  drugs are fake or original. The Truscan enables consumers to enter 12 digit numbers and send same to a dedicated number via SMS that would respond yes or no about the authenticity of the product.

The recently-acquired Black Eye technology compares the tablet a consumer is trying to check and tells whether it is genuine or fake and if you ask from the machine, it will break it down into its components and tell if the active or inactive pharmaceutical ingredients are present.

”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.

“We are working with the Israeli manufactures to tailor it to our needs and we hope that they can manufacture something like a conveyor belt. It can evaluate the packaging itself separately and tell if it is from the original manufacturer or not, using the packaging material.