The National Drug Policy of Nigeria (2005) aims to make available effective, affordable, safe, and quality drugs to the Nigerian populace at all times. The policy also ensures the rational use of drugs and advises the local production of essential drugs.
There are several strategies adopted by the Nigerian Government to ensure the aims and objectives of the National Drug Policy are adequately met. These cut across drug selection, procurement, storage, pricing, usage, donation, local production, legislation, inspection, importation and exportation, quality assurance, prescribing and dispensing, research and development, pharmacovigilance, and many more.
The issue of counterfeit drugs has been a major challenge of the Nigerian Health sector, and the menace has increased tremendously over the years. Counterfeit or substandard drugs may contain doses of dangerous ingredients which may result in the mass poisoning of users. Substandard drugs also compromise the treatment of infectious and chronic diseases. This may result in drug resistance, disease progression, or death of the patient.
Even with these attendant results, the Nigeria drug/medicine market is filled with counterfeit drugs and it is equally no news that some of the staff of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have been compromised. In Nigeria today, one can buy a drug with a scratch pin for verification and equally get a confirmation that the said drug is safe to use. Meanwhile, the drug may be substandard with no effectiveness. This clearly shows the level of decay in the Nigerian Health sector and the unhealthy abandonment of the National Drug Policy of Nigeria.
However, it is an open secret that the South-eastern part of Nigeria is the headquarters of adulterated drugs in the country. Most of these drugs are produced with no quality control from Government agencies and professionals. The crux of the matter is that these drugs do not work at all, thereby causing more health damage or in some cases, death. These counterfeit drugs get high patronage because they are relatively cheaper, as compared to the ones manufactured under mandatory quality control.
The extent of damage caused by counterfeit drugs in Nigeria is difficult to quantify because the details are mostly hidden in health statistics.
“There are no reliable data on the mortality and morbidity
resulting from the consumption of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria.”
(Erhun et al., 2001).
Most of the information related to the epidemiology of adulterated/ counterfeit drugs in Nigeria is kept from the public eye by the pharmaceutical industries and government agencies. This is partly because of the high level of corruption going on in the Nigerian Health Sector.
In as much as relevant agencies, like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), have been able to confiscate a few counterfeit drugs, a large percentage of these unfit medicines have remained unchecked. The following recommendations are recommended in combating the production and circulation of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria;
- Complete Adoption of the Local Drug Production Recommendations:
The Recommendations provided in Section 6.9 of the National Drug Policy (2005) should be adopted completely. This will provide enabling environment and guide for local drug production. The manufacturers should be adequately trained on how to produce quality drugs. This will reduce the production and circulation of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, as well as the corrupt practices in the sector.
- Destruction of Seized Drugs:
All drugs confirmed to be adulterated should be promptly destroyed, so that it does not get into circulation through any compromised staff of the agencies in charge. Quality assurance should also be done after production, in order to detect counterfeit drugs early.
- Affordability of Genuine Drugs:
The Federal Government of Nigeria should enable genuine drugs to be affordable. This is one major reason distributors patronize counterfeit drugs—the cost of purchase is low.
- Removal of Non-professionals in Drug Business:
The relevant authorities should ensure that non-professionals are flushed out of the drug business in Nigeria. It is disheartening that some pharmacies in Nigeria employ unqualified persons to recommend and dispense drugs to patients. In turn, they can not detect a fake drug/manufacturer as they are not adequately trained in the field.
The Nigerian Health sector will experience a drastic change for good if we come to the realization that combating the production of adulterated drugs goes beyond scrutinizing the drug manufacturers and distributors but also taking responsibility as a patriotic Nigeria, which involves integrity and doing our due diligence at all times.