Nigeria May Lose N200 Billion to Counterfeit Medicines, Experts Warn


-Charge govt on enforcement training for relevant officials

 Nigeria May Lose N200 Billion to Counterfeit Medicines, Experts Warn
Medicines displayed in the open market

If government and relevant agencies do not swing into action immediately to improve enforcement against dealers of counterfeit and substandard drugs in the country, who have hitherto become a menace in the pharmaceutical industry, Nigeria is estimated to lose a huge sum of N200 billion annually, experts have said.

They decried the present situation in the country which has positioned the nation a hotspot for the manufacturing and trade of fake drugs, and has since led to the death of ten to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting patients.

The seasoned practitioners from the healthcare sector, media and Intellectual Property law Association of Nigeria (IPLAN) converged recently in a virtual media parley organised by the American Business Council to deliberate and proffer solutions to the challenge of “IP Infringement in the Pharma Space”.

Intellectual Property Right (lPR) violation is the unauthorised use of material or patent protected by IPR law in a manner that violates the original copyright’s owner exclusive rights to reproduce or to build upon the copyright work or patent.

Lamenting the impacts of IP infringement on patients, one of the speakers, Chukwuma Muanya, science &health editor/assistant editor, Guardian Newspapers noted that Nigeria has become a target destination and transit route for counterfeit and pirated drugs due to weak regulations and enforcement.

Describing how IP infringement is done in the Nigerian Pharma space, he said “Foreign and local traders flood the markets with cheap and substandard medicines while local manufacturers, illegally imitate products of established brands.

“Reasons for the widespread proliferation include informal structure of the economy, corruption, outdated legislation, weak policy, enforcement mechanisms, and lack of proper awareness on the dangers of consuming substandard and counterfeit products”.

He cited some empirical findings to buttress his points on the impacts of IP violation on patients’ safety, stating that a market survey by Pfizer found that 40 per cent of Pfizer medicines in Nigeria are sourced from illicit parallel importation. Another evidence cited was a 2011 WHO study which found that about 64 per cent of anti-malaria drugs in Nigeria are fake.

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Going forward, Muanya recommended some best practices to be imbibed by stakeholders to stem the tide of counterfeit medicines in Nigeria.

They include: “Improvement on civil judicial enforcement procedures; strengthening of IP legislation and ratifying of IP international agreement; establishment of an inter-agency approach and enhance collaboration between Nigerian regulatory agencies administering and enforcing IP rights; establishment of an inter-agency approach with private sector coordination; expansion of IP-related administrative and technical capacity building” among others.

In his own contribution, Michael Ubaka, senior lecturer & supply chain consultant, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, UNN, mentioned various innovations in the pharmaceutical supply chain such as patient centric information, internet hospital and internet pharmacy, collaboration among universities, institutions and laboratories, online supply chain, and others.

He expatiated on the paradigm shift in pharmacy practice from drugs oriented to patient centred, saying science has established it that patients are essential entities that need more care than drugs, and thus the focus has shifted to patients. To achieve this patient centric information, patients’ data are now stored electronically and shared across all platforms of facilities patients will come in contact with.

The supply chain consultant revealed how patients’ centric information is gaining ground in Nigeria, especially in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt as hospitals are forming a conglomeration in sharing patients data for better management.

Speaking on internet hospital and internet pharmacy, he said it is where patients access care and drugs online. ”Although it’s an innovation, but it lack of regulation is a challenge for practitioners. It’s something we hopeful for policies to be made on its operations in order to control the supply of these drugs because they can easily be abused”.

However, Ubaka listed some bottlenecks to be resolved in the supply chain stating that Nigeria is currently missing out in technological driven innovation as Nano medicine is still benched due to lack of funding. He called on government to expedite action on enforcement in order to protect patent owners and prospective patent owners to enhance the supply of more authentic medicines to patients.

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Earlier on, Chief Executive Officer, American Business Council, Mrs Margaret Olele, appreciated all facilitators and journalists that took part in the media parley, being the last media forum they are holding for the year 2020.

She said the America Business Council is the America chamber of commerce and an affiliate of US chamber of commerce working with the US mission and other partners, as they drive trade and investment opportunities between Nigeria and United States of America in the interest of its member companies of both countries.