Monday, 1 December 2014

WHO, NAFDAC partners to end fake drug menace

By: CHIOMA UMEHA 

It may no longer be business as usual for fake drugs in Africa, Nigeria included, as World Health Organisation, WHO, has teamed with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administrative Control, NAFDAC, to adopt a new strategy to put surveillance system to detect any form of fake drugs in countries across the continent. 

The system, Rapid Alert System, is a surveillance system aimed at monitoring of substandard, spurious, falsely labelled/ falsified Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products, with the intention of training focal persons from different countries’ medicine regulatory authorities on the use new WHO initiative for SSFFC reporting – The Rapid Alert System. The Director General of NAFDAC, Paul Orhii said, at the opening of a three-day workshop, in Lagos last week, that it has become imperative to continually fight the scourge of fake drugs, not only in Nigeria, but also in other neighbouring countries in Africa. Orhii linked treatment failures and development of drug resistance to SSFFC medical products. 

Dr Paul Orhii, Director General, NAFDAC
with other officials of the agency
He further explained that SSFFC medical products provides hostile business environment for manufacturers, importers and health care providers. The NAFDAC boss further lamented that it denies access to quality medicines leading to untimely death of many unsuspecting citizens. The DG noted that drug counterfeiting is a global problem, adding that it is more prevalent in developing nations where counterfeiters target drugs used in high volume for managing diseases of public health importance. 

He regretted the level of sophistication among counterfeiters who produce nearly exact replicas of genuine drugs, copying every detail including packaging and labelling. His words: “Drug counterfeiting is a global problem. It is more prevalent in developing nations where counterfeiters target drugs that are used in high volume for managing diseases of public health importance. Counterfeiters produce nearly exact replicas of genuine drugs, copying every detail including packaging and labelling. They have even advanced to imitating holograms and other sophisticated printing techniques. He continued: “SSFFC medical products have been identified as one of the factors responsible for treatment failures and development of drug resistance. The scenario has created unfavourable business environment for manufacturers, importers and health care providers. More importantly and regretfully, it has denied access to quality medicines and caused untimely death of many innocent citizens and families creating serious embarrassments for the Governments.” 

The NAFDAC boss regretted the regulation gap and poor technical capacities, a consequence of circulation of SSFFC medical products. “Many member countries have noted the regulatory gaps and poor technical capacities that have led to the continued circulation of SSFFC medical products in our region. Apart from the survey conducted by DFID/WHO and NAFDAC in 2005 on the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, there has not been any other study to determine the extent the problem whether nationally, regionally or internationally,” he said. According to him, the WHO SSFFC Global Surveillance and Monitoring project is therefore designed to significantly improve the quality and quantity of data concerning SSFFC products through the systematic and structured reporting via a Rapid Alert System to the world health body. 

The system is designed to allow a more detailed analysis of incidents, to be carried out by the WHO in order to establish a clearer view of the threat posed to public health by SSFFC medical products. The workshop was aimed at training local stakeholders in West Africa on the need to keep daily surveillance to detect fake drugs. The workshop, which had over 17 African countries, in Lagos, gave opportunity to each country representatives having noticed the regulatory gaps and poor technical capacities that have led to the continued circulation of SSFFC medical products in Africa. “Apart from the survey conducted by the British Department For International Development (DFID)/WHO and NAFDAC in 2005 on the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, there has not been any other study to determine the extent of the problem whether nationally, regionally or internationally”. 

The WHO SSFFC Global Surveillance and Monitoring project is therefore designed to significantly improve the quality and quantity of data concerning SSFFC products through the systematic and structured reporting via a Rapid Alert System to the WHO. The system is designed to allow a more detailed analysis of incidents, to be carried out by WHO in order to establish a clearer view of the threat posed to public health by SSFFC medical products. Meanwhile, the Project Coordinator, WHO, Deats Michael, noted that monitoring and surveillance are important for any project to succeed. Deploying the right instruments for data collection and analysis is essential for success. The importance of statistics to obtaining a clearer of the global and regional anti-counterfeiting challenge cannot be over emphasised. He said: “The Rapid Alert System will foster greater collaboration on anti counterfeiting within the sub-region and the African continent effort for hosting this workshop. 

Michael added that the workshop is aimed at encouraging pilot countries to establish networks within their respective countries with the support of Pharmacovigilance, laboratory experts and other relevant stakeholders to generate and forward standardised reports on SSFFC medical products to the world health body.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 11,  2013.

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