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NAFDAC, PCN, others not doing enough to curb fake drugs - Experts

 Ifedayo Ogunyemi
Experts in the pharmacological sector have accused that the federal government and other relevant regulatory agencies including the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) of not doing enough to curb the menace of fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria. 
Of the challenges hindering the relevant agencies from carrying out the civic duties, the experts told Platform Times they include inadequate funding, insincerity on the part of those at the helms of affairs of the various regulatory agencies and healthcare professionals, lack of adequate knowledge. 
According to them drugs that fall under this category include those produced with the intent to deceitfully represent its origin; those with lesser amount of active ingredients (API); drugs not duly ratified and given approval by regulatory agencies; drugs not properly labeled to reveal what is inside the medication, drug that does not follow the kinetic pathway of production according to the documented regiment and those not doing the expected pharmaceutical dynamism.
A senior lecturer in the department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Pharm. Seun Onasanya said the challenges of stopping the menace of fake drugs cuts across all facets of the sector including production, storage, distribution and usage. He lamented that Nigeria does not produce any of the raw materials used in the production of medical drugs. 
“We don't currently don't produce any raw materials in Nigeria. You have to import your materials from India, Bangladesh, China and others. The technical know-how of producing drugs, not having the right personnel involved in the production. The major problems are in the distribution of drugs, professionals are not allowed to effectively distribute these drugs. People also tend to misuse or abuse the use of drugs.
Despite the provisions of Section 3: Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Food Acts CAP C34 LFN 2004 with empowers the regulatory agency to prohibits the production, storage and distribution of fake and counterfeit, Onasanya blamed all stakeholders in the sector for the continued effects of the economy and the country brought by the prevalence of fake drugs.
“If the regulatory agency is backed to do what it ought to, we would have solved 1/3 of the problems. The problem was compounded even before the tenure of Akunyili. Healthcare providers also have roles to play. Pharmacists who stock unregistered products contribute to fake and counterfeit drugs. There are lots of these products the pharmacist feels he or she can make money from, the undiscerning patients will these medications upon the counsel of the pharmacist. It has a lot of effects. 
The patients should also be wary of drugs they buy and use but they are always careless about it. If all of these facets are being checked, if NAFDAC is funded, health care professionals are doing their required work in line with the oath they swore to uphold and end-users are guided to check what they are being given, it will help check and reduce the menace of counterfeit and fake drugs.
On how to assess the effects of fake and counterfeit drugs, Onasanya said, you are supposed to take a drug that contains 500mg of antimicrobial. Instead of having 500mg in the drug, you have 200mg but it is being labeled as 500mg and the doctors relied on the information provided on the label and gives such to the patient. 
“When you are supposed to have a relief of bacteria manifestation, you are empowering these bacterial and they will become more virulent and more powerful and will invade the host more and will devise mechanism to develop more resistance to what is being given to the patient. More time is being wasted at the hospital which has a ripple effect on the economy of the country. 
“On the other hand, we would have thought that particular brand is no more effective to treat that illness and as such will take us back to research on what to kill these microbes. Unknowingly, the resistance is as a result of the fact that the required amount of dosage was not given, Onasanya added.
Corroborating this claim, with Platform Times, the Chief Pharmacological Technician at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Idi-aba, Ganiyu Salako berated the Federal Government and other relevant agencies for not equipping and allowing the Pharmacology Department at the center to test and assure that drugs  brought for patients are tested to ascertain if they contain the required compositions necessary to address the medical conditions of the patients.
Salako feared that the overwhelming prevalence of substandard drugs cannot be prevailed on if the government and all concerned stakeholders fail to act to end this menace with proper legislations which will be funded and implemented to the later. 
On the other hand, Onasanya said, Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) and NAFDAC are doing their best to check the menace of fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria but in my opinion, there are still more grounds to cover. We see cases of hawkers with fake and counterfeit and without licence despite the various moves and campaigns against fake drugs. As government is trying block the ways, the perpetrators are looking for mechanisms to block whatever the government is doing.
Onasanya lauded the FG for introducing the Coordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC) but chided them for not properly implementing the present policy framework used for production, storage and circulation of these pharmaceutical products. He said that the National Drug Distribution Guidelines introduce in 2012 was not properly implemented.
“CWC would have been the best thing to happen in the drug distribution sector if implemented. The FG tried something like this twice but it did not see the light of the day. What is the government doing to the present distribution channels. The Idumota, Agbeni markets of this world where some people display drugs in the sun which affects the physiochemical properties of these drugs but they don't care. They care about the business angle to it. 
“CWC will put distribution of drugs in its right place. But these guys will not keep looking to outsmart the policy. The transition phase should provide alternatives for them. The transition should be able to train 1/3 of these people to see why they need to move from where they are to somewhere else. We would have seen the advantages and key into it but what we are doing is the fire-brigade approach. I have not seen anything to say that that policy will see the order of the day. 
“These counterfeiters have not sworn any oaths. If government will not re-orientate them and make them see why professionals should handle the business of producing, storing and circulating drugs, then we are in a rat race. The agency should step up their works, Onasanya said.
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