The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has busted a fake drugs and alcoholic wines syndicates across the country worth over N1 billion that specialises in illegal importation of fake regulated products, local manufacture and importation of counterfeit medicines, importation of unregistered food products, illegal importation of saccharin with forged NAFDAC stamp, illegal manufacture of fake Red Label whiskey and Carlo Rossi red wine; and a pharmacist for alleged forgery.
Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii, while parading the suspects in Lagos recently, said the suspects have been interrogated and products taken for laboratory analysis, and will be prosecuted as soon as investigation is concluded.
Orhii said the agency is currently reviewing its law to ensure that offenders get life jail term and their property confiscated and part of it used to compensate their victims. This is against the current NAFDAC law that allows maximum of 15 years imprisonment and N500,000 fine for offenders.
The NAFDAC DG also said the agency has been able to reduce the prevalence of fake drugs and substandard products in the country from about 64 per cent in 2008 to less than five per cent in 2012 due collaborative efforts with governmental and non governmental agencies such as the Nigerian police, Customs Service, Department of Security Services, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria Ports Authority, the media, among others; and using Truscan and other anti-faking devices introduced by the agency.
Orhii, however, dismissed suggestions that the rising cases of kidney problems in the country was due to fake and adulterated/ substandard products but rather blamed the situation on indiscriminate use of chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides.
He said Nigerians have right to good, safe, effective and wholesome regulated products and NAFDAC is there to ensure that citizens enjoy this right. Orhii appealed to members of the public to report any suspicious activity relating to NAFDAC regulated products around their community to the nearest NAFDAC office for immediate action and see it as part of their contribution in the fight against counterfeit and fake products.
The paraded nabbed syndicates include Mr. Tochukwu Eze of No 5 Oworeaya Street Obosi, Anambra State for smuggling fake regulated Gino Tomato paste and Ejulo Investment Limited Railway, Iddo Terminus Lagos for smuggling fake Mcdowell Reserved Whiskey; Mr. Nne Ikenna for illegal manufacture of medicines such as Zentel tablets, Lincocin capsules and Postinor tablets; Mrs. Awoyinka Mary, a Superintendent pharmacist at Uchest Pharmaceutical Limited at 9 Ekwulummiri Street, Iyiowa Odekpe layout and Block 237 Niger Head Bridge market Onitsha for alleged use of forged Pharmacists Council yearly licence to practice and retention of premises certificate to import one 20 feet containers of pharmaceuticals.
The other syndicates busted by NAFDAC are: Mr. Maduabuchi Abuzu of 21 Ashogbon Street Idumota Lagos, alleged member of a syndicate in China that specialises in importing counterfeit medicines to Nigeria, for importation and sales of suspected fake medicines including Coartem tablets, Amalar tablets, Maloxine tablets for the treatment of malaria; Divine Chris Link Communication for importation of three 20 feet container of unregistered Mama Stars De Tomato paste through APMoller Terminal Apapa Port, Lagos; Mr. Chukwudi representing Vyn Trade 102 Faulks Road Aba, Abia State for illegally importing one 20 feet container of saccharin with forged NAFDAC stamps; and Mr. Kingsley Okoro and Mr. Fred Nwafor for illegal manufacture of fake Red Label whiskey, Johnny Walker whiskey, and Carlo Rossi red wine at their residence at N 7 Afolabi Close Ojo, Lagos.
On the reduction in fake drugs and substandard products prevalence, Orhii said: “The determination was by the World Health Organisation (WHO) when it did a study on anti-malaria drugs, which are the most often counterfeited drugs, and found that Nigeria has the worst case with more than 64 per cent fake drugs. In 2012, the WHO did another study that showed the level of anti-malaria drug faking has reduced to less than 20 per cent. A study by NAFDAC last year using Truscan that detects fake drugs on the spot showed only 6.2 per cent of the drugs sampled were fake. Another independent study by a United States researcher showed it has gone down to less than five per cent.
“However, the prevalence of fake drugs is a little higher in the rural areas. We can say NAFDAC is winning the war: from 64 per cent to 20 per cent then 6.2 per cent then five. We believe it is going to drop further when we start enforcing the mandatory Text Message System (TMS) on all anti-malaria and antibiotic drugs marketed in Nigeria.”
On the review of punishment for offenders, Orhii said: “Now we have more than 100 cases and we have got some convictions, and the highest punishment we got for an offender is three years jail term. We are presently reviewing the law. It is a very lengthy and slow process. We have a very strong legal team made up of Senior Advocates (SAN) and professors of Law from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and others.
“I wanted a death penalty for fake drugs peddlers because they are worst than armed robbers. But I have to come to terms with civil rights activists who are opposed to that. Now we want lifetime jail term and confiscation of all their assets, and when proven that the fake drugs caused death or bodily harm, some of the assets can be used to compensate the victim. We also want the offence to be non-bailable to ensure speedy trial. We want the new law to enable us reward people who come forward with information. If you bring us information that is credible we will reward you.”
On the link between fake drugs and food products to rising cases of kidney failure, Orhii said: “There are so many things that can cause kidney problems. I disagree with the suggestion that fake drugs are to be blamed. Indiscriminate use of chemicals is a major factor. The chemicals/pesticides we use to store beans, the insecticides we use at our homes and indiscriminate use of fertilizers.”
The Guardian Online/Feature