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Worries as strike, fake drugs thrive

As 2015 begins, practitioners in health want the Federal Government to show more commitment in the sector, BUKOLA ADEBAYO reports

Despite the fact that Nigeria successfully checked the Ebola Virus Disease in its tracks less than two months after it crept into the country last year, stakeholders still hold the view that all is not well with the sector.

According to them, there is need to do more this year if the nation’s health care system is to reclaim its lost glory. There judgment is not far from the truth. For one, activities in many public hospitals came to a halt for many months with patients suffering more pain and agony. This followed numerous industrial actions embarked upon by the different health professionals in the sector.

Indeed, critically ill patients were turned back at emergency units of many of the hospitals between July and August last year as doctors, who should tend to their wounds, were at loggerheads with the Federal Government.

Even now, respite is still elusive in the sector as the public hospitals offer only skeletal services. In fact, pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers and other allied workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union are sitting at home waiting for the Federal Government to heed to their demands.

According to stakeholders, for Nigerians to get a deserving health care system, the Federal Government must this year take bold but decisive steps to tackle industrial disharmony, medical tourism and the fake drug syndrome facing the sector.

Close open drug markets – PSN

While regulatory agencies in many developing countries spend their resources on developing research on vaccines and medicines, their counterparts in Nigeria, stakeholders say, expend huge resources mopping up counterfeit and substandard medicines coming in through the nation’s porous borders.

The President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, warns that Nigerians may spend more to get cure for simple ailments, if the Federal Government does not take drastic steps to tackle the alarming influx, circulation and distribution of fake drugs in the country by closing open drug markets.

According to Akintayo, the government can no longer afford to feign ignorance on the havoc that quackery is wreaking on the health of innocent and sick Nigerians.

The government’s inaction in tackling the fake drug menace, he alleges, is about to drive investors away from the country’s pharmaceutical sector.

Akintayo notes, “The government is aware of the channel through in which fake drugs are circulated and distributed nationwide and it must be ready to break this cartel. To do this, it must shut down the open drug markets,which are now more than 50 across the country.

“If it does not do this, what it means is that if an importer brings in N1bn worth of fake drugs this night, it will be all over the country by the next day through these open drug markets.

“The government must deal with this huge network because it is chasing investors who want to increase Nigerians’ access to quality medicines. No serious investor will bring in billions to compete with quacks and counterfeiters. It must put a stop to the peculiar pharmacy practice in Nigeria.”

     On the need for a conducive environment, the PSN boss tasks the Federal Government to tackle the epileptic power supply in the country to allow local pharmaceutical industries to compete with their counterparts in the production of quality but affordable medicines.

Akintayo notes that though five Nigerian pharmaceutical companies received the World Health Organisation certification for Good Manufacturing Practices last year, they would need financial and infrastructural support to survive.

“There is no way the price of a diesel-powered manufacturing plant can compete with the drugs from countries with constant electricity. This situation has now put Nigerian drug manufacturers at a disadvantage in the global market. The government must be serious about helping local production,” he adds.