NAFDAC, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, has spent years fighting Nigeria’s war against fake and substandard drugs, an ill which has resulted in thousands of avoidable deaths. It has done this by thoroughly vetting local production houses in the country and checking all drugs imported into the country and holding them up to strict regulatory standards. It has not been afraid to take its fight to the corridors of the perpetrators or aiders of this scourge. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the agency confiscated and destroyed substandard and falsified medical materials worth billions of naira.
Late Dora Akunyili, a former NAFDAC Director-General was renowned for her staunch, passionate fight against fake drugs. She, having lost a sister to illicit drugs, understood why it was important to rid Nigeria of substandard consumables and pharmaceutical products, and she worked tirelessly to achieve this, causing as much as a 90% decline in the fake drug market.
Another reason Dora’s fight was important was that the rifeness of falsified drugs which compete with and sometimes eclipse actual genuine drugs in the market discourages pharmaceutical companies from developing innovative drugs against disease in the country.
Years after Dora, NAFDAC has stayed in line with its objectives and continued its campaign for safe, quality drugs, and it has continued to vet not just imported drugs and consumables but also local production sites, in order to ensure that they meet set standards.
In 2010, the agency introduced its Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) which has helped millions of Nigerians to verify the authenticity of drugs at sales points and avoid falling into the trap of fake drugs. This put the power to detect falsified products in the hands of customers.
NAFDAC’s present Director-General, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, in mid-February, raised the alarm over Nigeria’s drug insecurity and the potential dangers it poses for Nigerians, especially in trying times like this. China, the country’s largest import point, is struggling with the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus and this may lead to global restrictions on its exports, especially medicine.
Nigeria has a severe drug security problem and NAFDAC continues to work hard to offset the scale and help the country become drug secure. This is largely done through collaboration with other stakeholders. While NAFDAC does not, itself, produce drugs, it has put in place policies that encourage an increase in local production while not letting down on its standard for quality. In late 2019, Prof. Adeyeye spoke about the agency’s new five+five validity policy aimed at improving local production and drug security. The policy also has the potential to help reduce unemployment and contribute to economic growth.
As Mojisola sounds the alarm, NAFDAC continues to clamp down on fake and substandard drugs. It is committed to sanitising the food and drug space by strengthening its internal capacities. This covers everything from having quality laboratories with modern equipment and trained personnel, solid post-marketing surveillance, an inspection of facilities to ensure they meet GMPs, to enforcement using international best practice. The agency continues to exploit all the channels at its disposal to ensure the safety of Nigerians from substandard drugs and other consumables.