By NBF News
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•Dr Paul Orhii
In a renewed effort at combating the scourge of counterfeiting, diversion, tampering and trademark infringement of pharmaceutical products, Janssen-Cilag Pharmaceuticals with the support of its parent company Johnson and Johnson of United States, on Tuesday in Lagos introduced a national anti-counterfeit Mobile Authentication Service (MAS) device to protect one of its fast moving brands-Nizoral tablets and creams.

MAS which uses the Sproxil technology is the latest among a series of technological initiatives aimed at stemming the tide of counterfeiting, which stakeholders described as 'a serious threat to brand owners and public safety worldwide'.

Stakeholders, including doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals at the launch, decried the growing profile of counterfeiting worldwide and welcome new advances in the anti-counterfeiting battle.

They expressed concern that despite the efforts of regulatory agencies, counterfeiting products from China and India had continued to flourish.

Akin to the popular scratch card method for replenishing cell-phone talk-time, the MAS users revel a one-time-use code on product and text the code to a '911 for fake products' number, which is identical on all cell-phone networks.

Country manager of Janssen-Cilag, Mr. Clifford Emenike, said: 'MAS is about the most foul-proof of all the technologies currently. This one cannot be tampered with without collaboration with the GSM network providers. And one good confidence is that the scratch card that we are using has never been faked up till now and it is already 10 years that we have been using phone scratch cards,' he said.

Janssen-Cilag Area General Manager, Near East West Asia & African Territories (NEWAAT), Mr. Fady Khayat, added: 'We think that is the best thing to have happened in the war against counterfeiting, which is 30 to 40 per cent more prevalent in developing than developed countries.'

Demonstrating the procedure to stakeholders, Dr. Ashifi Gogo, the Chief Executive Officer Sproxil Inc., said that the solution enables consumers to text message an item-unique code for rapid response that confirms a brand's genuineness.

He noted that NAFDAC registration number and Sproxil's technology work closely together to further enhance the product security that Nigerian consumers can enjoy daily.

Deputy President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Olumide Akintayo who represented the president of PSN, Mr Azubuike Okwor, acknowledged the commitment of pharmaceutical companies like Janssen-Cilag, in the fight against counterfeit through the introduction of new technologies and techniques.

'The PSN as a major stakeholder in the battle against drug counterfeiting and faking encourages these methodologies even though as experimental scientists, we must continue to posit that the most authoritative and scientifically acceptable mode of ascertaining bioequivalence and chemical equivalence of drugs is through assay/analysis in standard quality control laboratories in the event of outright drug faking,' he stated.

'The PSN must also put on record that the counterfeit and fake drug business is gradually becoming the most lucrative and attractive illicit business for criminals to embrace in our society today. Hard drug trafficking for obvious reasons has become a more risky venture to embrace in Nigeria thus motivating a drift towards counterfeiting and faking of drugs,' Akintayo added.

Representative of the NAFDAC Director General, Dr. Paul Orhii, Mr. Segiru Momodu, said that the task of fighting counterfeiting in the country requires a joint effort of all stakeholders.

His words: ' Fighting counterfeit products cannot be successfully achieved by the agency of the health sector alone. It will require a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary approach. Coordinating of efforts and effective collaboration through building partnerships among pharmaceutical companies, law enforcement, customs officials and the media are imperative,'.

'In NAFDAC, we look forward to a tomorrow where counterfeit product would be a thing of the past. It is my belief that today's summit would provide the framework of information and shared ideas to strengthen our fight against counterfeiting as well as the platform from increased collaboration among stakeholders in the industry,' he said.