By Kemi Olatunde
Everywhere in the world, people rely on medication for relief from ailments and treatment of life-threatening diseases and due to this they take all medications including counterfeit drugs on daily basis.
The pharmaceutical industry and global drug regulators are constantly working to keep any below-standard and fraudulent drugs out of circulation.
According to www.pfizer.com on fake drugs, Fake drugs are manufactured and packaged to look like legitimate brand-name medications but often contain little to none of the active ingredients listed on the label. Fakes drugs in the illicit supply chain pose a serious potential risk to unsuspecting patients.
In some cases, these fake drugs simply don’t provide the needed therapeutic value as they may lack the active ingredients. In the worst case, some contain dangerous products. According to Interpol, “some fake medicines have been found to contain mercury, arsenic, rat poison, or cement.”
Consuming counterfeit drugs can have serious consequences on individuals, communities, and overall global public health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of every 10 medicines fails in low- and middle-income countries because they are substandard or falsified. Not only does this erode public trust in healthcare, but it also leads to preventable deaths. For example, between 72,430 and 169,271 children have died of pneumonia each year after taking counterfeit antibiotics.
Some counterfeit drugs contain real antibiotics or antivirals but at a much lower dosage than listed on the product label. It’s not enough to fully treat the disease, and it can give pathogens a chance to mutate and spread, which contributes to the growing public health threat of antimicrobial-resistant infections. Fake drugs might also contain medicines that appear where they aren’t supposed to be, which can lead to overdoses and deaths.
In Ondo State, regulator of these drugs; the task force against fake and counterfeit drugs is constantly working to keep any below-standard and fraudulent drugs out of circulation.
The task force comprises the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control ( NAFDAC), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria ( PSN) and staff of the Department of the Pharmaceutical Services of the State Ministry of Health.
A few days ago, penultimate Tuesday precisely, a fake and counfeit drug organisation; Brother Paul Legacy Foundation at the Cultural Area of Ondo road, Akure, the capital of the state was apprehended by the task force.
Findings revealed that the organization currently operates in 13 other states in Nigeria. It was caught with concoctions which are injurious to health of consumers as it claimed that the drugs could cure all manner of ailments.
The organization has been in operation in Akure since June, 2023 allegedly treating all kinds of ailments such as cancer, low sperm count, diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis and barrenness and claimed to be registered with NAFDAC.
Speaking on the development, Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Ministry of Health, Pharm. (Mrs) Folukemi Aladenola stressed the need for residents to give relevant information to government through the Ministry of Health to secure their health.
According to her, government’s effort is geared towards protecting residents against sellers of fake drugs adding that government is determined to put measures in place to tackle drug abuse in the state.
While noting that the concoctions were detrimental to the health of residents of the state she maintained that government would always protect the health interest of residents stressing that the state government has ensured that its people have unfettered access to healthcare delivery by increasing access to health facilities through the suspension of registration fees in all government facilities to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal.
She called on the people to visit accredited health facilities for health check for qualitative health care delivery.
According to her; “the gesture of the government should prompt our people to access care but to our surprise, people still patronise these quacks and their prices range from 5000 to 10,000”.
“Instead of using this money to patronise quacks, you can get quality drugs at the government facilities in the state”
Speaking further, the permanent Secretary reiterated that the Government of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu established the Ondo state Drug and Health Commodities management Agency (ODHCMA) for effective healthcare delivery and to improve access to high quality and affordable drug and health commodities.
In her words, ” the era of out of stock syndrome is over, now our facilities would now have enough drugs to cater for the health of the people at an affordable price. Now our facilities have been directed to get their drugs from this agency. If you don’t get drugs in these facilities, you can question this gap”
While appreciating government for providing conducive and enabling environment for the team to work, the accounting officer sounded a note of warning to all fake drug dealers in the state that the team would not relent its efforts in bringing them to book.
Representative of the National Agency for Food Drug, Administration and Control ( NAFDAC), Mr Ogidi Samuel Olatunji explained that the apprehended representatives of the organization paraded themselves to have NAFDAC registration on their product adding that it was discovered that the registration number was fake.
National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA) representative, Mr Bankole Adetayo stressed that the agency would always collaborate with the taskforce to wage war against fake and counterfeit drugs in the state.
Speaking extensively with The Hope, Chairman of the Taskforce in the State, Pharm. Olugbenga Lasekan appreciated the support of the government for the taskforce team to be able to cater for the health of the people of the state.
He said that the team is against unregistered products and illicit drugs describing the arrest of the organization as a big catch for the team.
While lamenting the level of atrocity committed by it, he revealed that marketers of the organization have been moving from town to town in the state stating that “they buy Chloramphenicol eye drop, remove the label and have it sold to their customers as high as N8000.”
Speaking further, he said; “The leader of those arrested from the organisations is a Political Scientist while another one is an Engineer. They brought a concentrate into the state and left it outside in the open. They dilute it and sell to people.”
He explained that it is important that the activities of herbal marketers are monitored calling the marketers to register with the state Ministry of Health before operating in the state.
His words; “Before now, terminal diseases weren’t as common as we have these days. There has been an increase in cases of these diseases. A lot of herbal medicine have health consequences.
“No one should enter the state without getting clearance from government through the Ministry of Health as the health of the people is our priority.
“It is good that things are done rightly and that is why government wants to bring them under one umbrella in order to have them regulated. Government will meet with them to look at their practices.”
He warned those involved in the selling of fake drugs and adulterated consumables to desist, saying that anyone caught would face the law.
Some residents who don’t want their names in print said that people always troop into the residence in large numbers to access health care on daily basis.