By Ubong Okorie
Fake drugs or a counterfeit drug is defined as any substandard drug that may contain toxic dose of dangerous ingredients that can cause mass poisoning (According to World Health Organization).
This poor quality medicine compromises the treatment of chronic and infectiondiseases leading to disease progression, drug resistance and death of whichwomen are more vulnerable because of the population ratio, medical needs inobstetrics and gynecological problems. Counterfeit medicine may be contaminatedor contain the wrong or no active ingredients. It could have the activeingredients but at a wrong dose. This is harmful to health.
The major causes of proliferation fake drugs in Nigeria are numerous. It is partly due to ineffective enforcement of existing laws via the relevant agencies. Also, it could be caused by influx of non-professionals in the drug business, especially with increasing number of patent medicine dealers who are closer to the people especially the women in the villages.
Other causes of proliferation of fake drugs in Nigeria include the loose control system, high cost of genuine drugs greed and ignorance. Also, corruption that has eaten into the fabrics of the ethical system is a major cause. Again, illegal drug importation is also a major contributor. The chaotic drug distribution network is another factor and the high demand for drugs exceeding the supply forces
people to come up with fake drugs into the Nigeria market.
The effects of the counterfeit drugs on women’s health as well as others cannot be overemphasized.
One of the effects is the reduction in the millennium development goals of reduction in maternal death and infant mortality. For example, fake vaccines in Nigeria caused over 2,500 deaths in 1995 (Renne, E. 2006). It also leads to the reduction in the improvement in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Due to the complexity of the problems associated with fake drugs, a multiple disciplinary approach has been suggested as a way forward. One of such ways is drug verification and management. Away for drug verification has to be streamlined by relevant agencies so that people especially the women will have a way of verifying the drugs that they are buying.
Also, mismanagement of funds for health facilities should be reversed. Again, improvement in infrastructural development in the health care outfits should be enhanced. Funding and staff training must be routinely carried out. Capacity development should be improved upon. There should be a robust improvement in the security especially insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Other ways for curbing the proliferation of fake drugs in Nigeria includeincrease in the penalty for fake drug offenders; the current 3 5 monthsimprisonment should be raised to life imprisonment due to the danger they poseto the lives of Nigerians especially the women. Also, the cloning of NationalAgency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) registration numbersmust be effectively reduced. Hawking of drugs must be stopped.
In conclusion, the public health threats posed by fake drugs and counterfeitpharmaceuticals can effectively be curbed by the multidisciplinary approachsince no single technique can combat the effects. All of these will improve thehealth of women as well as others in Nigeria.
Ubong B. Okorie is chairman,Incorporated Trustees of Medical Development Outreach.
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