When I was asked to contribute to this website many thoughts crossed my mind. Bearing in mind that issues affecting people of black origin and Africans in particular are being highlighted; I developed a sense of inadequacy for the simple reason that I have been away from Nigeria for 13 years. Nigeria is the world’s most populated black nation. The World Bank’s 2013 data places the population at 173.6million (Courtesy: http://data.worldbank.org/country/nigeria) accessed March 30, 2015. I believe that if you want to address health issues affecting black people one cannot ignore this country and its health matters. With this in mind, I will dwell briefly on the state of pharmacy services, particularly the menace of fake drugs, at the time I left Nigeria.
The issue of fake drugs has scarred the pharmaceutical landscape of Nigeria for a long time. As past National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and Chairperson of the Nigerian Association of General Practice Pharmacists, Lagos State (as it was known then) one issue that took most of our time and energy was the struggle to get rid of fake drugs from our streets and markets. Pharmaceuticals became commodities that were sold in open markets, buses and street corners. It was not strange to find insulin displayed on counters in temperature of 30℃ .
There were medication containers bearing ‘’made in England” on the label but “made in Nigeria” at the bottom of the container! The merchants made enormous profits from their trade but the consumer suffered, most times, tragically. This issue of fake drugs caused many pharmacists to abandon pharmacy practice altogether. Unfortunately, we did not have the statistics to show how many people died or fell ill due to consumption of fake drugs. However, “A median of 20% across 17 countries surveyed say they or household members have been victims” (ref: World, by Mitchell Ogisi, October 2010: Fake Medicine Common in many Sub-Saharan African Countries (http://www.gallup.com/poll/149942/fake-medicine-common-sub-saharan-african-countries.aspx)(accessed Feb 9, 2015).
Poverty and a lack of information have contributed to the thriving fake drug business. People are generally aware that there is a strong possibility that the drug they are taking is not the real thing but hope that somehow, they will get well. The fact that genuine drugs cost much more than the fake ones has driven people to patronize the illegal merchants.
I believe there is a solution to every problem. First and foremost, people should look for genuinely registered pharmacies in their area. Ensure that you know what has been prescribed by your doctor. Gone are the days when this was kept a secret. Everyone is entitled to know what their health issue is and what has been prescribed. You have a right to procure your own medication from your own sources. It is sad to note that many patients are given the impression that they must buy their medications from the hospital where they were treated. You do not have to buy brand named drugs if you have the choice of genuine generic brands.
There is a reason why we have various professions in the healthcare. Doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare providers have clear cut roles which are meant to protect the patient and provide quality care. If one sees the best doctor but ends up taking fake drugs then the worst scenario is the only possibility.
My future posts will provide more insight and real examples of fake drugs that are circulating in Nigeria and other parts of the world. I will seek help from the public and if any one has any experience from the harmful effect from fake drugs send such information to firstname.lastname@example.org