By G9ija

Get-rich-quick desire, porous borders and the attitude of people, have all combined to frustrate the fight against fake and substandard drugs, so say respondents to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey has shown.

The respondents, who gave their inputs in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States, all in the Northwest, were of the consensus that punitive measures aimed at ensuring deterrence, were inadequate, hence the continued flourishing of the illicit, money-spinning business.

They also lauded the efforts of regulatory bodies like National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), but lamented that support of members of the public, was inadequate.

Stakeholders also observed that peoples’ desire for affluence in a short time had made dealing in unwholesome drugs, a lucrative venture, especially using porous borders for importation, just as the rush for cheaper drugs by patients had further boosted the market.

They stressed the need for rigorous public enlightenment on how consumers could distinguish a fake or substandard drug, from a genuine one.

Adamu Garba, Sokoto State Coordinator of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said his Agency was collaborating with other institutions and vendors in detecting counterfeit and expired drugs.

He commended stakeholders and security agents in the state for their support, and assured that the Agency would continue to work towards protecting the health of Nigerians.

Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, Director, Reaserch and Statistics, Sokoto State Ministry of Health, said that state government had been partnering with NAFDAC in monitoring the activities of patent medicine vendors and pharmaceutical stores.

Leader of medicine vendors in Sokoto, Ogbu Batholomew, underscored the importance of collective efforts among stakeholders in the struggle to safeguard the health of Nigerians.

Batholomew said his members collaborated with relevant agencies on routine evacuated of expired drugs and other consumables, as well as in exposing counterfeit items.

State Coordinator of NAFDAC in Zamfara, Alhaji Hamisu Yahaya, urged people of the state to assist with useful information that will assist the Agency in the discharge of its duties.

He appealed to sales outlets, particularly supermarkets , patent medicine stores and pharmaceutical chemists, to always check the products they displayed in order to avoid selling expired drugs and food products to consumers.

Muyiddin Suleiman, Coordinator of NAFDAC in Kebbi State said counterfeit and substandard chemicals and drugs were not common in the state as there was no huge market for medicine.

“Generally, importation of drug products through the land boarders are not allowed, and being a relatively small state and not commercially viable, we do not have direct importers or manufacturers in Kebbi State.

“As a regulatory Agency, we receive alerts from manufacturers and when we receive such, we work on it; Kebbi is not a huge market for drugs; most of the time we do not come across this problem”, he said.

He explained that even if some dubious characters smuggled unwholesome products into the State, they would be discouraged because they would not have market for it.

The coordinator also said that staff of the Agency were always in the field for regular checks to ensure that substandard products were not in circulation within the society.

“Every society has deviants and people who derive pleasure in making people cry; recently we received an alert on the circulation of counterfeit amoxicillin capsules, which is commonly called augmentin.

“But in the whole of seven Local Government Areas of Kebbi that we have investigated so far, we found this drug in only one shop and the marketer claimed ignorance of the unwholesome state of the product; he said the product looked like the original,” Suleiman said.

In Kano State, the State Consumer Protection Council (KSCPC) said it had been conducting regular inspection of business premises, including pharmaceuticals companies, to rid the state of fake, expired and counterfeit drugs.

The Council’s Public Relations Officer, Musbahu Yakasai, told NAN that operations were being conducted based on reports received from people, and sometimes payment of unexpected visits to such places.

According to him, on October 1, 2022, the Council intercepted a trailer loaded with drugs suspected to be fake and substandard, worth millions of Naira.

“After investigation, the original drugs were returned back to the owners, while the suspected fake products were handed over to NAFDAC for further investigation.

The Council also uncovered large quantity of suspected adulterated fertilizer and flour hidden in a ware house in Gabasawa and Garko Local Government Areas, among other items recovered in 2022”, he said.

He then appealed to the public to provide the Council with credible information about unscrupulous people and their businesses.

A Civil servant in Kano, Garba Bala, stressed the need for more public sensitisation on how to identify fake and substandard drugs, as well as ways to report such cases to the appropriate authorities.

“People are being killed because of the fake and substandard drugs being imported and the merchants make quick and easy money to the detriment of the consumers’ state of health.

“But the citizens are sometimes not helping matters as they always want cheap products, not minding the dangers associated with such drugs or chemicals being cheaper than others.

Making a similar call, a medical expert in Katsina, Ibrahim Abdullahi, urged the relevant authorities to do more on enlightening the public on how to identify genuine products to safeguard their health.

The expert also stressed the need for all stakeholders to join hands and intensify efforts in checking the threat of fake and substandard drugs.

“Consumption of such drugs has tendency of causing more health problems to people; if a person uses fake drugs, the ailment will remain in him, affect some of his systems which might lead to other health problems,” he said.

He further urged pharmaceutical companies in the country to intensify efforts in complying with the international standards in manufacturing of drugs.

In Kaduna, stakeholders in the health sector said routine inspection by regulatory bodies would help curb the importation of fake and substandard drugs into the country.

Charlotte Martins, a Microbiologist, said regulatory bodies like NAFDAC and Consumer Protection Council, should constantly engage in thorough routine checks at the country’s borders

But Nasiru Mato, Coordinator of NAFDAC in Kaduna State, lamented that the challenge was the numerous footpaths at our borders through which these unwholesome drugs and chemicals were being smuggled.

He said the law had prescribed that all drugs were to be imported through seaports or airports, and not land borders.

” The land borders are very porous and there are limitations in checking the numerous footpaths used for smuggling, not only drugs, but other contrabands, but NAFDAC is doing its best; we have been up and doing in terms of sustained points”, he said.

He added that the Agency in the state had sustained consumer education and sensitisation efforts on how to identified fake and unregistered products to ensure public health safety.

He said the Agency had also evolved a technology for on-the-spot verification of registration status of medicines.

” The prevalence rate, to some extent, is on the declined because consumers have an advantage of verifying the authenticity of products at the point of purchase”, Mato said.