NAFDAC: Preventing deaths through reduction in fake anti-malaria drugs

Despite the challenges and hurdles which confront­ed Nigeria’s health sec­tor in 2015, there was however a remarkable achievement in the fight against fake drugs.
Even though many Nigeri­ans may have different views on the successes recorded by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in the fight against fake and substan­dard regulated products in the country, there is however con­vergence of views in the area of the fight against fake anti-malar­ia drugs in the country.
In August last year, NAF­DAC recorded a major feat that has never been recorded in the history of the fight against fake and substandard products in the country, resulting in the re­duction of counterfeit anti-ma­laria drugs from 19.6% in 2012 to 3.6% in 2015. This, many be­lieve, is a monumental success.
This was the outcome of a nationwide survey conducted in six geo-political zones in the country on the quality of anti-malaria medicines.
The survey was jointly under­taken by the National Malaria Elimination Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health and NAFDAC with funding support by United States Pharmacopeial and USAID.
While announcing the re­sult of the survey, the outgo­ing Director-General of NAF­DAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, said that the feet was achieved due to the introduction and deployment of new anti-counterfeiting cut­ting-edge technologies such as TRUSCAN, Mobile Authenti­cation Services (MAS), Mini-laboratory and Deep Infra-red technology by NAFDAC under his watch.
Dr. Orhii noted that the agen­cy has done Nigeria and, indeed, Africa proud with this remark­able achievement coming close­ly on the heels of the recent sei­zure of N5 billion counterfeit drugs evacuated from 5 ware­houses in Lagos.
He reiterated the commit­ment and determination of NAFDAC, as an agency to com­pletely eradicate the menace of counterfeit drugs in the country very soon.
Even though the feet was not well celebrated in the country as expected, partly due to lack of proper understanding of the magnitude of the achievement on the part of most Nigeri­ans, the success was acknowl­edged as one of the great things that could happen in the fight against fake drugs not only in Nigeria, but in the entire Afri­can continent.
It will suffice to note that Ma­laria has continued to be a mas­sive global public health prob­lem and it is prevalent in 104 countries.
It has been estimated that nearly half of the world popu­lation is at risk of malaria. Al­though it is a preventable and curable illness, it remains one of the major causes of maternal and childhood morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.
The counterfeiting of anti-malaria drugs can best be de­scribed as a form of attack on global public health since fake and substandard drugs general­ly serve as sophisticated weap­ons of mass destruction.
This is particularly prominent in resource-constrained coun­tries including Nigeria, where malaria causes nearly 660,000 preventable deaths and threat­ens millions of lives annually.
It has been estimated that fake anti-malarias contribute to near­ly 450,000 preventable deaths ev­ery year. This crime against hu­manity is often underestimated or ignored.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2015, approximately 3.2 bil­lion people – nearly half of the world’s population – were at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saha­ran Africa.
The world health body fur­ther noted that some popula­tion groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting ma­laria, and developing severe dis­ease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and pa­tients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travelers.
According to the latest WHO estimates was released in De­cember in 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria and 438 000 deaths in 2015.
Between 2000 and 2015, ma­laria incidence among popula­tions at risk fell by 37% globally; during the same period, malar­ia mortality rates among popu­lations at risk decreased by 60%.
Sub-Saharan Africa contin­ues to carry a disproportionate­ly high share of the global ma­laria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 88% of malaria cas­es and 90% of malaria deaths.
Some 15 countries – main­ly in sub-Saharan Africa – ac­count for 80% of malaria cases and 78% deaths globally.
In areas with high transmis­sion of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death; more than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group.
An interview with medical ex­perts and major dealers in phar­maceutical products across the country on the impact of the reduction in fake anti malaria drugs indicated that the achieve­ment was not given the desired publicity and attention.
A renown Kaduna–based pharmaceutical dealer, Yusuf Ya’u, while reacting to the suc­cess, applauded NAFDAC for achieving such a great feat.
According to him, fake anti malaria drugs had been the cause of the untimely deaths of many innocent Nigerians. He insisted that fake anti malarias have contributed immensely in the rise of maternal and infant deaths in the country.
“Do you know the millions of people that take anti-malar­ia drugs every day in this coun­try? Millions of people fall sick each day due to malaria and that is why anti malaria drugs have been the major target of drug counterfeiters.
“To me as a dealer in phar­maceutical products, this is the only achievement I can see in the health sector in 2015. What that means is the less Nigeri­ans, especially the poor and ru­ral dwellers will die as a result of the consumption fake anti malaria drugs. NAFDAC must be commended for the intro­duction of cutting edge tech­nologies which has led to the success recorded,” he said.
On his part, an Abuja-based pharmaceutical dealer who has chains of pharmacies spread around the Federal Capital Ter­ritory (FCT) and neigbouring towns in Nasarawa State, said that the reduction of the fake anti malaria drugs to single digit by NAFDAC was under estimated by Nigerians, even by the government itself.
He noted that with such suc­cess recorded, it means that the days of fake drug dealers are numbered as they will soon be thrown out of business consid­ering that most fake drug man­ufacturers produce anti malar­ia products.
“We must commend the then NAFDAC Director General, Paul Orhii, for the innovations he in­troduced in the fight against fake drugs”.
He, however, called for the sus­tenance of such effort by the in­coming head of the agency for the good of the country.