CLAPDOWN ON ILLEGAL HERBAL CLINICS

By NBF News
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The war against fake and adulterated regulated food and drug products in the country recently recorded a significant boost with the arrest of two Cameroonians who were operating an illegal herbal clinic in Ebonyi State by officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

According to the Director-General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, the suspects, Messrs Penda George, alias 'Doctor' and Nana Patrice, were apprehended in the premises of a local church, which serves as their clinic, with six bags of assorted fake Chinese herbal medicines at Ekemgbo area of Ebonyi State while administering fake drugs on unsuspecting residents of the area.

This is not the first time NAFDAC has arrested operators of substandard clinics in the country. In June last year for instance, its operatives arrested three men in Keffi area of Nasarawa State for illegally dispensing unregistered and fake Chinese medicines in their clinic.

The clinic was run by one Dr. Arsen, suspected to be a Cameroonian. Apart from these occasional arrests, NAFDAC has made some seizures at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. The market value of fake drugs seized at the two airports between June 23 and 25, 2010 was put at N30 million.

It is equally on record that most of the fake drugs seized in recent times originated from China. Ironically, the Chinese government has stiffer penalty on unwholesome food and drug products than Nigeria. While China administers death sentence on fake drug offenders, those convicted in Nigeria can have a maximum of 15 years jail term or N50, 000 fine in lieu of sentence.

We commend the NAFDAC leadership for the recent arrest of dispensers of fake Chinese drugs in Ebonyi State as well as its strident effort to rid our shores of fake and substandard food and drug products. But at the same time, we enjoin the regulatory agency to be more proactive in tackling the fake drug menace. There is need for a more pragmatic and comprehensive approach in dealing with the issue of adulterated food and drug products.

It appears that the death merchants have perfected their ways of getting away with their nefarious activities that adversely affect the health of the public and the nation's economy.

We expect NAFDAC to be on top of the game and add more verve to the fight against fake drugs on a sustainable basis. Perhaps, a reenactment of Prof. Dora Akunyili's praxis might suffice. Those involved in the business of fake drugs must be haunted and given sleepless nights until they are caught and punished according to the laws of the land.

Also, the agency should be extra-vigilant so as to nip in the bud those that steadily use our citizens as guinea pigs. It is a matter of great concern that unqualified Cameroonians infiltrate the country and ply their trade unhindered. All health authorities, federal and state, should of essence cooperate with NAFDAC to arrest the deteriorating situation of quacks treating Nigerians with fake drugs as witnessed in Nasarawa and Ebonyi states. The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) should be up and doing in monitoring the activities of both legal and illegal aliens in our midst. This has become necessary in view if inherent abuses of expatriate quota.

Since those behind the illegal clinics have been arrested, they should be diligently prosecuted. All those found culpable should be severely punished to serve as deterrent to others that might toe such ignoble path. Perhaps, one factor that is propelling the fake drug business in the country is the absence of stiffer penalty. If those convicted can be made to serve life jail terms, it will help curb the menace drastically.

The current sanctions are cosmetic and ineffective to address the problem. Since most of the fake drugs originate from Asian countries, particularly China, government should explore diplomatic and trade channels to see that only genuine products are shipped to the country through pre and post-shipment inspection. Selling of drugs should be restricted to pharmacists and other trained medicine vendors. It has become imperative that only qualified professionals should be allowed to import drugs into the country, while open drug markets that serve as veritable channels of fake drug distribution are dismantled forthwith. These measures, if well implemented, can keep the menace in check.