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Enact strict law for substandard drugs — FIP

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By Usman Oladimeji

Stringent rules will stop the spread of substandard medical products.

The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has called on the Nigerian government to implement more stringent regulations to stop the distribution of substandard and counterfeit medical products. In Nigeria, unlike in more regulated regions, medications are often sold illegally on buses and streets, posing a significant risk to public health. According to Professor Cyril Odianose Usifoh, the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), the existence of the regulation gap allows for counterfeit and substandard drugs to enter the supply chain.

Dr. Catherine Duggan, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of FIP, raised alarms about the practice, emphasizing that medications have the potential to both remedy and exacerbate health issues. It is crucial for pharmacists to provide guidance to guarantee the safe supply of drugs and protect patients from harm. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) threat assessment report states that in Africa, approximately 10% of medical products are considered to be substandard or counterfeit, resulting in close to 500,000 deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Enhancing legislation and enforcing compliance is crucial.

Dr. Duggan highlighted the dangers of overusing antibiotics, explaining how it leads to the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). According to her, this resistance makes treating infections more difficult, ultimately heightening the chances of disease transmission. Referring to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), Duggan pointed out that bacterial AMR caused the deaths of 1.27 million individuals worldwide in 2019, and played a role in another 4.95 million deaths. She pointed out that FIP is tackling significant global health issues such as counterfeit drugs and AMR through collaborative efforts with partners.

According to her, ministries of health, government regulatory bodies, pharmacists, and pharmacy teams are crucial in detecting and preventing substandard and falsified medical products from reaching the public. Additionally, they play a significant role in promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics through antimicrobial stewardship, as outlined in FIP’s policy statements and resources. It is believed that enhancing legislation and enforcing compliance is crucial in ensuring that medications are sourced only from trustworthy and qualified providers.

There is a need for extensive public awareness campaigns.

As the leading authority in the field of pharmacy, FIP expresses significant apprehension regarding the dangers associated with medications obtained from unregulated outlets. The strict regulation of the pharmaceutical distribution at pharmacies safeguards individuals from counterfeit and inferior quality medications. Pharmacists have maintained a strong reputation as one of the most trusted professions for years in various national surveys. Their primary focus is on the well-being of the public, and they are committed to providing a high standard of care. Duggan suggested the need for extensive public awareness campaigns to dissuade individuals from purchasing medications from street vendors.

Raising public awareness about the dangers of obtaining medications from unapproved sources is crucial in helping people make informed decisions about purchasing drugs from street vendors. Despite the warnings from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) about the risks of drug hawking, this illegal practice continues to thrive in our communities. Illegal drug vendors have taken refuge on public buses in Lagos State, selling their products at remarkably lower prices compared to legitimate stores and pharmacies.

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Findings have revealed that these traveling vendors lack healthcare expertise and often withhold their personal information and workplace address. This makes it extremely difficult to identify the seller if someone has a negative reaction to their products. A Pharmacist, Mr. Friday Ocharifu suggests that this risky behaviour persists in Nigeria due to the government’s inability to eliminate open drug markets. Ocharifu urged the government to implement strict laws against drug peddling, with harsh penalties in place for those who do not comply.

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