Unlike India, China not helping Nigeria stop fake drugs’

Accra, May 15 (IANS) Unlike India, China is not assisting in the fight against counterfeit medicines even though the influx has been mainly from that country, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says.

“Comparative analysis has shown that China is not doing anything to help the Nigerian government in its attempt to control the import of counterfeit medicines, even though much of these medicines have been traced to China,” NAFDAC spokesman Abubakar Jimoh told IANS on the phone from Nigerian capital Abuja.

On the other hand, the Indian government “has joined hands with the Nigerian authorities to fight the influx and has thus reduced the flow of such medicines from India,” Jimoh added.

Nigeria has been faced with the influx of counterfeit medicines over the years and has tried several methods to overcome the scourge. Last year the government proposed a bill providing stiffer punishment for organisations and individuals who may be arrested for dealing in the manufacture and sale of counterfeit medicine.

The government at the time wanted to use the bill to protect local manufacturers against inferior imports that were selling cheap on the market. It was proposed to provide support to three agencies – Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) – to link their activities and work in concert.

The government at the time promised to support to the organisations in the enforcement of regulations in the control of fake products. It has been revealed that NAFDAC has been able to bring the prevalence rate of fake drugs down to six percent from the 16.7 percent over the past five years.

The proposed bill, however, turned out to be much ado about nothing as there was no movement forward.

Jimoh’s comments come to confirm an earlier statement by NAFDAC director general Paul Orhii that most fake, substandard and counterfeit drugs imported and openly sold on the Nigerian market were from China through smuggling with the connivance of some unscrupulous persons whose only interest is to make money.

Orhii said even though Nigeria had been doing everything possible to fight the scourge of counterfeit drugs, China had remained a problem. This is because the authorities in China have refused to show any interest to assist in the elimination of the chain that had been traced to their country .

“India has tried to collaborate with Nigeria maximally on strategies to reduce the importation of counterfeit medicines to the country,” Orhii said, adding: “But, concerning China, we are still trying to work out how to collaborate with each other. For now, without fear of contradiction, I will say that China remains the highest exporter of these fake products and China is a problem for Nigeria.”

He said the Agency was working closely with the Chinese embassy in Nigeria to track down the company in China that connived in the shipping of counterfeit medicine into this country.

Orhii said the recent discovery of a huge consignment of counterfeit drugs had also revealed that these drugs were being sold in the market by those who also dealt in other products to escape the attention of the security agencies.

Expressing his determination to fight the influx, Orhii said: “There will be no sacred cow in the fight against counterfeit medicines. Any counterfeiter arrested will be prosecuted according to the law of the land.”

This is an indication that foreigners who hide behind the cordial relationship between their country and Nigeria to engage in negative activities will not be spared the rod. It is however not clear how the Nigerian authorities intend to deal with the Chinese diplomatic mission that doesn’t seem to be interested in helping to fight the influx of counterfeit medicine.

To achieve its aim to beat the influx, NAFDAC has also appealed to the general public, market unions and transporters to report any suspicious activities that would help it ensure that those who may try to avoid arrest were not spared but were prosecuted according to the law.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])

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