Fake Drugs Threatening Malaria Control, Elimination Efforts In Nigeria

Experts have decried high rate of drug resistance, causalities, including deaths emanating from the prevalence of many substandard malaria drugs in the market.

Recently, Dr. Babatunde Puddicombe, President, Nigeria Society of Malaria, urged the Federal Government to channel more efforts to check the influx of fake drugs in the country, not just on malaria.

Puddicombe who spoke to DAILY INDEPENDENT at the backdrop of World Malaria Day in Lagos, regretted that more people who believe that they are taking adequate treatment are dying from malaria because of fake drugs.

He said, “There was a survey at Idumota which showed about 20 different brands of malaria drugs that were not registered are being sold in the open market. The control is not as what it used to be. Fake drugs are getting into the country left, right and centre.”

He advised that Federal Government to put place adequate measures to curb fake drugs, even as he advised patients to buy drugs with Scratch Pads and from credible Pharmacies.

He further called for adequate funding of NAFDAC to spur the agency to excellent performance and carry out more activities and be able to control the inflow of fake and substandard drugs in the country.

Only recently, there were reports of some versions of one of the popular brands, Lonart, marketed by Greenlife Pharmaceuticals failed credibility test using the Mobile Authentication Technology.
However, Dr. Obiorah Chukwuka, Executive Chairman, Greenlife Pharmaceuticals reaction, said his company had always been in the forefront in the fight against fake and counterfeit medicine in Nigeria.

“In fact, we were one of the first pharmaceuticals in Nigeria to sign unto the new anti-counterfeiting technology introduced by NAFDAC in 2011 with our flagship anti-malaria; Lonart.

“The process is simple; buy the drug from a pharmacy, scratch the panel to reveal a set of unique numbers to a short code and wait for response.

“In the event of ‘fake do not use’ response the sms as outline the steps to take to ensure the information gets to the government agency saddled with the responsibility of handling such issues when they arise,” he said.

Only recently Prof. Moji Adeyeye, the Director General of NAFDAC, was forced to debunk a report in one of the newspapers that 70 per cent of the drugs in circulation in Nigeria were fake, describing the report as ‘categorically untrue and grossly inaccurate.’

The NAFDAC DG had given a situation report on the status of anti-malaria medicines in Nigeria in a statement to underscore her position that the situation is not that bad after all.

She said, “The report of the survey on quality of anti-malarial medicines conducted by NAFDAC in collaboration with National Malarial Elimination Programme (NMEP), National Supply Chain Management Program (NSCMP) and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) presented on August 11, 2015 revealed that 771 samples (96.4 per cent) out of 800 samples of anti-malarial medicines passed. 29 samples (3.6 per cent) out of 800 samples of anti-malarial medicines failed.

The samples of medicines for Round Two survey on the quality of anti-malarial medicines conducted by NAFDAC in collaboration with USP were procured between April and May 2016. The report of Round Two survey was presented to stakeholders on April 11, 2017.

“The report showed the level of substandard anti-malarial medicines in circulation to be 4.33 per cent (39 out of 900 samples) as against 3.6 per cent in 2015.
Only this week, NAFDAC organised a workshop on the occurrences of Adverse drug reactions in its efforts to effectively monitor the worrisome reactions of drugs.

Actually it shouldn’t be trending, first because anti-malaria are a group of essential medicine are the ones that are most tracked in Nigeria.

She said, “The failure rate of malaria drugs in the country is 1.3percent. This figure is based on data that we collected and disseminated earlier this year, in March. 1.3 percent failure rate as far as anti-malaria is concerned is insignificant, so I don’t know why it is trending, 1.3 percent is not bad, we wish we it is 100 percent success rate or zero percent failure rate.

“In terms of the mobile authentication system, which is the track and trace, about three four weeks ago I used it myself and it works.

“So am not sure of failure, sometimes it difficult to scratch very well, but have passed this to the service providers that where that code where they need to scratch is very important , but the scratch and test is working very well, have used it twice myself,” she added.

However, reacting to the menace, Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, Chairman, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN) said to stop fake drugs for anti-malaria and others the panacea is to ban all essential products from importation.

He lamented, “Nigeria is not a haven for dumping and once you do that local manufacturers will begin to manufacture in their millions and then fake drugs would be eliminated. I guarantee that.”
Collaborating earlier views, Prince Agboade Orimadegun, Managing Director, Orfema Pharmaceuticals Ltd., reasoned, to tackle fake drugs, the Federal Government should support local pharmaceutical industry.

Noting that the government is the main buyer in any economy, Orimadegun said that many of the products imported into the country can be produced locally.
Speaking on research, Dr. Sam Awolola, Director, Malaria Research at NIMR, said government should provide the enabling environment to carry out research.

He said, “We all need to recognise the fact that Malaria is still a major problem and we need to do something by playing our own role in our environment by ensuring we don’t have stagnant water around.”

He, however, said that as a nation, a lot of progress has been made adding, “In the past, you will hear, Malaria has been over-diagnosed. We are getting it right through figures of malaria prevalence in the country now. In terms of intervention, we have moved forward, but a lot is still needed to be done because Nigeria Prevalence is still high.”

He said Nigeria is still very far from malaria elimination, hence government as well as partners needs to do more work.

He said government must make sure its intervention is evidence based as research is key to fighting malaria.

Nigerians therefore called on NAFDAC to step up its surveillance and enforcement activities to ensure that the perpetrators are put in check.

By strengthening its enforcement efforts, it is believed that the agency would curb the upsurge in the incidence of fake drugs in the country.