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JONATHAN, SAVE NIGERIANS FROM ILLEGAL PRESCRIPTION AND COUNTERFEIT DRUGS

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Globally, the menace of fake medicines, counterfeit health products and the unapproved sales of drugs remain super risky to the general public health of the people. These acts continuously pose as mounting challenges for all healthcare consumers. These problems are particularly potent in Nigeria where in spite of the trying and some good faith efforts of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), many Nigerians remain silent victims to the deadly consequences of these drugs.
The international pushers, national organizers and local hands of these ungodly and high risk practices see Nigeria as their play or spoil ground, given the fact that mass illiteracy, economic poverty, struggling law enforcement, lax legal penalties and poor consumer education behaviors remain a line of realities in and across the nation.

The sorry, poor and rotten state of most hospitals and health clinics, the public ones particularly, where availability of quality drugs remain null and void, further make the sick person to seek out cheap and quick fixes and cures through illegal dispensers and sellers of fake or bogus look-alike medicines. As a consequence, the disease(s) of the ailing person silently become more worse, complicated, and killers; all due to the added dangerous effects of these horrific practices.

Often, these fake drugs and illegally prescribed medications either contain ineffective ingredients, extremely potent ingredients, outdated time line and/or sold out by any store worker, unlicensed and untrained for that matter.

Because Nigeria remains a†place of poor sanitation, pollution-driven environment, and†poor electrical power,†the people, both the poor or not too rich especially, unavoidably find themselves†consuming bad water, running from heat and in the process taking short breeze outside their residences at evening hours. Under these circumstances, many become subjects of commonplace viral, infective and other related ailments—malarial, typhoid, boils, tuberculosis and others.

Therefore, the market for any drug, in spite of its standard becomes in great demand by the physically uncomfortable and fatigued ailing person and/or family. 'Me I de sick, my pikin (child) dey sick, I go get anything to make us well.'† Getting well by any means necessary even with the use of fake and tainted medications, injections as well as unregulated herbs is all that matters to the ailing person or family.

And for some of the rich and' big money' people,†running from these non-progressive medications in their own stores, businesses, or hometowns, and rushing to overseas clinics to get good medications remain all too common.

In a society where professional bodies like the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Nigeria Medical Association are not given the highest professional respect by the powers- that-be, and coupled with the lack of†financial weight, with regard to securing powerful grants or local donations,further leave many consumers to-any- kind of medicine.

Research studies and manpower to carry out public and consumer education becomes difficult, and unnoticed.

The adequate policing of these illegal health practices committed not only by the importers, sellers but also the buyers remain weak as workers and enforcers are poorly paid and marginally equipped to do their work. As such, some of these personnel become vulnerable, and open to temptations or even become victims to corrupt dealers and organized criminals.

President Jonathan, certainly will agree that for decades Nigeria has been a full blown dumping ground for shadowy, tainted, fake, bogus, diluted, and poorly regulated drug market and consumption. The president must see these unsafe acts as threats to the national security. This is particularly so, in a society where life expectancy is currently in the fifties

Presidential effort should be exacted on the Speaker of the House of Representative, Dimeji Bankole and the Senate President, David Mark to work on these matters with good sense, and great urgency, so that the work of NAFDAC will become more deterring, lasting and successful.

The current efforts of Dr Paul Orhii and his entire organization, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) could be empowered in the following ways and through new stringent laws:

1. Lengthy and harsh penalties in form of imprisonment for transnational dealers of fake medications, 2. Severe and lengthy imprisonment for medication traffickers at all levels, locally, statewide and across the country.

3. Manufacturers of fake or counterfeit drugs should face long term imprisonment and high-level restitution in terms of civil liability.

4. Illegal domestic prescription stores should be immediately closed down by the NAFDAC, followed by investigation, and legal intercession or/and punitive judgment.

5. Public announcement in form of media and print publication of names of sanctioned individuals and establishments should be financed, 6. Establishment of rigorous patent laws in the area of medications should occur, 7. Adequate monies for law enforcement surveillance tools and technologies remain urgent, 8 Provision of high powered technical devices to monitor and detect mails, ships, airplanes and local carriers of counterfeit drugs should occur.

9. Establishment of effective partnership and treaty with nations in Asia, Europe, and Middle East for the repatriation, prosecution and fines of offending persons, dealers and operations become essential, 10. Legal partnership rules should be established for effective and joint anti-counterfeit work by the NAFDAC, the Nigeria Custom Service and the Police system, 11. Resources for Behavioral and Therapeutic classes by psychologists or behavioral specialists should be established to help in the area of consumer education within schools and in the communities.

12. Financial resources should be available to set up modern and up to date Academies for the training of law enforcement professional in the areas of detecting and preventing illegal drugs and bad medications practices. Training in such areas like professional ethics and anti-corruption behaviors should occur. Ensuring adequate salary and various forms of remuneration, to march the professional work of law enforcement agents is essential for the better running of the system.

13. Authorized and well financed whistle blower and†hot line programs should be set up to allow payment to anonymous callers about illegal dispensers of medications, fake drugs, and monies from confiscated goods and sales should be put to use in a†non-abusive / well supervised informant award programs.

14. Programs for Attitude change and Behavioral awareness education should be sponsored in workplaces and hospitals, 15. Resources should be provided to train consumers on how to detect hidden and authentic panels in well packaged medication systems. Training should involve how to send specific text messages to drug manufacturers in order to authenticate real medicines followed by quick reply from the real producers.

16. Laws in the area of general health safety and functional regulatory systems in all areas of drug, food, cosmetic enforcement as well as theprovision of risk education could reduce the untold number of disabilities and fatalities across the nation.

It is time to stop this long-drawn-out, long term and long-lasting chemical assault on the people, and let President Jonathan be the first to provably and fully tackle this national dilemma and danger as part of his sacred obligations.

John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D, DABPS, FACFE, is a practicing Clinical/Forensic Psychologist and an Interim Associate Dean of the Behavioral/Social Science, North Campus, Coconut Creek, Florida. [email protected]

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