UNSUBSTANTIATED claims of potency of some medicines, both orthodox and traditional, to snare gullible buyers, have been proliferating in our society. The regulatory authorities, since the exit of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, appear to have gone to sleep in their duties regarding this danger.
Take a public transport any day in any Nigerian metropolis, or look at the roadsides. Peddlers of these medicines are advertising their products openly, and in most instances, with loudspeakers.
They make all sorts of outlandish claims, bandying thousands of ailments their medicines can cure. As a result of those claims desperate and unsuspecting members of the public fall victim to their antics.
Around April 20 this year, a video of the corpses of a man and his two daughters who allegedly died after taking herbal medicine in Anambra State went viral on the social media. Recently too, a man was reported to have died after drinking herbal mixture he bought from a peddler who had assured him of its efficacy as a detoxifier.
Many such cases are not reported in the mainstream media due to lack of medical reports showing correlations between those deaths and the ingested medicines.
In Nigeria, causes of deaths are seldom investigated through autopsies which many people consider as costly and emotionally exacting, while a lot of others are buried within 24 hours for religious reasons.
But in developed countries, it is different. On March 21, 2017, for instance, CNN Health showed an announcement by public health officials, of a woman who died after consuming a poisonous herbal tea purchased in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
They urged people to throw away tea purchased from Sun Wing Wo Trading Company.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, health officials, and other relevant agencies in Nigeria, must work harder and expand the scope of the fight against fake drugs. Agreed, some of those peddled medicines may not be fake drugs, but they are sold by unauthorised persons.
Secondly, there are no pharmacological proofs that those medicines can cure all the ailments their peddlers claim they cure, neither are they appropriately prescribed. Moreover, many of those medicines are not over-the-counter drugs but they are indiscriminately dispensed to gullible members of the public.
The failure of our healthcare system or outright lack of it in many parts of the country is partially responsible for this dangerous trend. Another reason is the unemployment scourge in the country which is mounting pressure on many unemployed persons to do whatever they can lay their hands on for survival.
This, however, is not the way to go. NAFDAC and health officials should halt this madness and save our people.