Historically, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was conceptualised for implementation in December 1992. That was when its first governing council was formed. In January the following year, the supporting legislation Decree No. 15 of 1993, was approved by the then Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria to lay the foundation for its effective take off on January 1, 1994, as parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health to replace the ministry’s ex-Directorate of Food and Drug Administration and Control. That was 22 years ago!
Statutorily, the agency is responsible for regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, chemicals and pre-packaged water in Nigeria. Its creation was inspired by a 1988 World Health Assembly resolution requesting member-countries’ help in combating the global health threat posed by counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and amidst concerns about the growing problem of fake and poorly regulated drugs in Nigeria. The effects of drug faking and adulteration can be felt from both the country of manufacture to the recipient countries. Nigeria has had more than her fair share of the effects of this menace. I must, however, commendably add that she is also winning the war.
The institution of NAFDAC 22 years ago has become the most progressive step taken by the nation’s leaders in the fight against food and drug faking and adulteration. The agency has been most aggressive and innovative in designing and deploying regulation and control best practices in line with global trends. It has carried on very well its responsibility of intensifying continuous search for the means of maximally improving the professionalism of the key players in the nation’s pharmaceutical and food sectors.
Expectedly, NAFDAC’s laborious efforts as a regulator are such that they are positioned to midwife a change for progress in the country. In its change agent role, the agency has become a revolutionizing catalyst for progressive change and modernization. In the process, Nigeria has been reaping bountiful dividends.
Nigeria is lucky to have in President Muhammadu Buhari a change-compliant leader. He and his economic team have demonstrated the panache for innovativeness-for-prosperity spirit, a remarkable departure from the platitudinous past. The new leaders have found in Nigerians the immeasurable appetite for a holistic change in virtually all segments of human endeavors, be it social, economic and political. And in this hunger for change, NAFDAC has been a willing ally.
Towards meeting national expectations, the agency has embraced hi-tech approach to combating the age long menace of drug counterfeiting and adulteration in Nigeria. It is recorded and noted globally that this singular and very bold move has helped to reduce the prevalence of counterfeited and fake drugs syndrome in the country. This technology-driven dynamism brought to bear on the agency by the Dr Paul B Orhii-led management is unprecedented in the annals of the nation’s healthcare regulation.
The wisdom in NAFDAC’s adoption of the Mobile Authentication Service [GSM SMS MAS] system to authenticate pharmaceutical products to combat counterfeiters, as well as protect the safety and quality of medications sold in Nigeria is to successfully conscript the teeming Nigeria mobile telephone users into the war against drug counterfeiting. The mobile authentication service (MAS) technology, also known as Scratch and Text messaging system, enables consumers to confirm whether the drug they intend to purchase is genuine or not through the use of a mobile phone. This technology is registered with the major telecommunication networks in the country such as Glo, MTN, Airtel, Etisalat. This life-saving innovation launched by Dr. Paul Orhii has put the power of detecting counterfeit medicines in the hands of over 100 million Nigerian cell phone users. It is remarkable to the extent that it is all-inclusive.
Taking it further and to ensure that consumers buy only drugs that are of high quality, wholesome and safe, NAFDAC directed all manufacturers, importers and marketers to provide only drugs that are MAS-enabled. They could be anti-malarial, anti-biotic or anti-diabetics drug, but must conform to stipulated rules and regulations. To further enhance the level of publicity, the agency has had to take the campaigns on MAS down to the grassroots, schools, hospitals and the general public.
Still on the deployment of technology, NAFDAC launched mobile application to help increase consumers engagement. These device types include smart phones, palm tops, table personal computers, personal digital assistant (PDA) and Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA).The ‘mobile app’ engages consumers and the general public with rich features that keep them updated about the latest news, events, guidelines and safety alerts from NAFDAC right in the palm of their hands. Anyone with a mobile device globally can download the app and stay updated about the agency on the go. The launched app, which is on the android platform, can be downloaded on all devices running on the android operating system from the online store at www.play.google.com.
Worthy of mention is the deployment of Truscan (hand-held device for instant detection of fake drugs}, Radio Frequency Identification System (used for verification of NAFDAC regulated products and documents thereby enabling the track and trace of products while simultaneously preventing forgery of sensitive documents); Black Eye machines (for detecting counterfeit medicines) as well as the mobile mini-laboratory kits. Through them, the agency has successfully demonstrated sincerity in its avowed commitment towards ensuring that Nigerians have unhindered access to efficacious, qualitative and very safe medicines. Their success has become a reference point in the global community.
Testifying to the efficacy of the deployment of hi-tech in the global fight against drug counterfeiting, the Director General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, once asserted that there was a drastic reduction of the failure of anti-malaria drugs from 64 percent to 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2008 to 2011while it has reportedly declined to about three percent in Nigeria. Nigeria via NAFDAC has contributed much in this regard.
Strengthened by the Food and Drug Act CAP R32 LFN of 2004, NAFDAC has lived up to its core mandate of regulating the manufacturing, production, sales, distribution and importation of processed foods and drugs in Nigeria. It does not take rocket science to imagine the millions of lives saved daily by these laudable innovations. Undoubtedly, NAFDAC would be one of the national agencies to be relied upon in the current crusade by the current administration to transform Nigeria through the change mantra.
We must not be unmindful of the fact that fake and counterfeit drugs deny people their right to healthy living; and in the most extreme, they cause untimely death. The professionally dynamic efforts of NAFDAC have drastically mediated such risks. So, we can safely assert that the agency has lived up to the expectations of its founding fathers. At the most critical time in the nation’s evolution, Dr. Orhii received the baton of management of the agency, and he has remained on top of his mandate.