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Drug hawkers merchant of death–NAFDAC

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By Abraham Adekunle

Food and drug agency warns Nigerians against buying drugs from hawkers.

In the slums and some rural areas, people do not usually go to the hospital as a first resort. In fact, only emergencies or dire cases get to the hospital in the country. This is perhaps because of the cost of healthcare in the country. Nigeria has one of the highest out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures in the world at more than 70 percent. Essentially, healthcare is not subsidized in the country. Citizens are just one serious illness from going bankrupt.

So, as this is the case, Nigerians have been known to engage in what doctors call “self-medication.” Self-medication is when people who have not been medically trained, buy drugs over the counter at a pharmacy to treat their or someone else’s illness. Most times, the self-medicator only assumes a particular kind of sickness, usually malaria. Thus, they go to the pharmacy to buy popular medicine for such and use according to the prescribed dosage. However, what happens with many others is that they rely on drug hawkers for patronage.

NAFDAC issued a warning at sensitization workshop.

The Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said this on July 11, 2023 at the official flag-off of the agency’s media sensitization workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbides. She described the drug hawkers as merchants of death and vowed to work with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to prosecute offenders. She said that most of the drugs sold by hawkers are counterfeit, substandard and expired.

This can also explain why they are cheap and the available surplus. The hawkers could be peddling pharmaceutical drugs or herbal medicines (in concoction) to unsuspecting consumers. These buyers also rely on them for dosage prescriptions. On June 10, 2023, the ICIR published a report detailing how many residents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) consume “Baba Aisha Herbal Medicine.” This is a low-end herbal product that sells for just N100 and is touted to cure common diseases.

Peddlers also sell narcotics to crime networks.

That investigation revealed how the chemical compositions expose the users to different health complications such as cancer. Prof. Adeyeye condemned this practice and noted that it poses a serious challenge to the healthcare delivery system. And she emphasized that NAFDAC was determined to eradicate the illicit trade. “Many drug hawkers are knowingly or unknowingly merchants of death who expose essential and life-saving medicines to the vagaries of inclement weather which degrade the active ingredients of the medicine and turn them to poisons thus endangering human lives,”.

Nigeria’s NAFDAC boss added that most drug hawkers are major distributors and suppliers of narcotic medicines to criminal networks such as armed bandits, insurgents, kidnappers, and armed robbers. She said that drugs are sensitive life-saving commodities, which should not be sold on the streets, motor parks or the open markets, just like any other article of trade. “In this regard, we solicit the cooperation and support of all other law enforcement agencies, Nigerian journalists and well-meaning Nigerians in ridding the country of this harmful and shameful practice,”.

Adeyeye spoke on the dangers of chemicals applied to fruits.

Also, speaking on the danger of ripening fruits with chemicals Prof. Adeyeye said NAFDAC has noticed the dangerous practice of sale and consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide. Ripening of fruits with chemicals is a public challenge facing the country today. The agency has deployed a multifaceted approach in response to the menace. According to her, consumption of fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc. or any other fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to public health.

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