PSN RAISES ALARM OVER EMERGING OPEN DRUG MARKETS
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos State branch recently alerted stakeholders of the emergence of new open drug markets in the country. With the new markets, which PSN officials say exist in Kaduna, Sango Ota, Ogbete-Enugu, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Gombe, Sokoto, Owerri, Trade Fair Complex, Lagos, Alaba-Rago in Lagos, Ajah also in Lagos etc, the total number of such illegal drug distribution and counterfeiting centres was put at over 25.
Hitherto, the nation has suffered high incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs as a result of the existence of four open drug markets domiciled at Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and Kano. With the emergence of about 25 new ones, officials of PSN said that the incidence of fake and counterfeit drugs has doubled.
According to the state chairman of PSN, Pharm Lanre Famulasi, 'since the enactment of the first legislation, that is, Decree 21 of 1988 about 22 years ago, the operations of the Federal Task Force has always been limited to a few strategic state capitals, notably Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and Kano. Despite all the propaganda of activism, the task force has not been able to permanently dismantle any of the major drug markets in these cities.
'In fact, the reality is that new drug markets are springing up such that the number of major drug markets which were only 4 in 1988 has now risen to over 25 in 2010,' he said.
Speaking on the proposed bill on Countereit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellanous Provisions) 2010, Famulusi said: 'The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) finds it necessary to appraise the above named proposed bill in the public interest. Our critical appraisal reveals some fundamental changes are being canvassed in the draft bill which changes the orientation of the intended template to tackle the menace of Fake Drugs in Nigeria.
'Specifically, we observe that there is an attempt to do away completely with the state platforms (equivalent of the existing State Task Forces on Fake Drugs) to fight fakers of drugs. This will amount to yet another act of over-centralization which never augurs well in the war against merchants of death as it is not possible for one Committee to comb the 36 States and 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) effectively in the fight against fake drugs. The experience of Nigerians with structures like Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) confirms that central templates are never effective in Nigeria.
'It is important to put on record that since the enactment of the first legislation, that is, Decree 21 of 1988 about 22 years ago, the operations of the Federal Task Force has always been limited to a few strategic state capitals and urban centres notably Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and Kana.
'Despite all the propaganda of activism, the Federal Task Force has not been able to permanently dismantle any of the major drug markets in these cities. In fact the reality is that new drug markets are springing up such that the number of major drug markets which were only 4 in 1988 has now risen to over 25 in 2010.
'On the other hand, some State Task Forces have been able to add value in terms of performance. The Lagos State Task Force on fake drugs has been particularly active in the last ten years with periodic surveillance which has led to the permanent dismantling of drug markets in Oniwaya and Balogun areas of Agege, Ikotun and Boundary in Ajegunle area of Lagos Metropolis. It is also to the glory of the Lagos State Task Force that it continues to comb the 57 LGAs and LCDAs of Lagos State today. The fear of the Lagos State Task Force on fake drugs is the beginning of wisdom in Lagos for those who vitiate relevant drug statutes.
'The leadership of the proposed committee at Federal level which is vested in the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) appears a misnomer. The Director General as Chief Executive Officer is apparently too busy with other responsibilities of the agency to have time to effectively lead an important assignment like the proposed bill envisages.
'The other leg of the matter revolves around the legality of persons who can be appointed pharmaceutical, food and drug inspectors. It is only persons appropriately designated in law to carry out these statutory functions who should legitimately lead the committees to fight fake drugs. From available studies, it is apparent that only a pharmacist will meet such provisions of law and therefore it is logical to canvas that the Director of Enforcement or the most senior pharmacist in the Enforcement Directorate of NAFDAC must lead the committees on fake drugs.
'The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) commends the initiative of the Minister of Health Prof. Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu for inviting stakeholders to a meeting to review this proposed bill which is laced with some draconian provisions in some sections. A particularly amazing one is the proposal that advocates a fine or jail term for persons who do not issue written receipts for drugs sold in pharmacy outlets. This is both arbitrary and extremely highhanded in a democratic setting. What happens to lead time per client in pharmacy facilities? What if the client does not even require the receipt? The totality of the sanction clause needs to be critically evaluated even though in principle, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) aligns with more stringent sanctions for offenders and violators of the fake drug Act.
On the activities of the Lagos State Task Force on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs (LSTFFCD), Pharm Femulasi said, 'the Lagos State Task Force on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs a creation of Federal Statutes has been very active in recent months thus consolidating the efforts of its precursors in the last ten years when it has made some modest landmarks including the dismantling of some emerging drug markets in Lagos State.
'In view of the reality that the Lagos State Government has been very proactive in restoring sanity to all sectors of the economy in this centre of excellence, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) finds it necessary to urge the Lagos State Government to support the Lagos State Task Force on Fake and Counterfeit Drugs with resources, logistics and personnel required to lay to rest permanently, the ghost of fake drugs circulation through the channels of open drug markets which are still alive in the Idumota and Mushin areas of the metropolis with grave consequences to the consuming public especially at a time when there are concerns about the increasing incidence of therapeutic failure, mortality and morbidity associated with fake and counterfeit drugs consumption in Nigeria.
'We at Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (Lagos State Branch) believe strongly that if Governor Fashola can restore aesthetic appeal on Lagos Streets and sanitize the erstwhile chaotic Oshodi area of the metropolis, then His Excellency can lead the way again in laying the foundation for ideal drug distribution channels in Nigeria,' he said.