Former Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, has made a strong case for the adoption of the NAFDAC model in the global war against fake drugs.

She made the recommendation in a paper delivered yesterday at the third edition of the World Health Summit held at Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany.

In a paper entitled Counterfeiting Medicines, Curbing the Rise in Global Trade, Akunyili said: “In Nigeria, counterfeit drug merchants operated unchallenged for over three decades until 2001 when I was appointed Director General of NAFDAC. I declared a war using novel effective strategies which included the use of public enlightenment campaigns and establishment of an effective quality assurance system, via strict inspectorate and enforcement activities. We also tackled the problem at source and established collaboration with other countries. Despite many challenges, such as corruption and conflict of interest/insecure and unfriendly environment, we remained undeterred until we ran most drug counterfeiters out of business. Fake drugs in Nigeria dropped from an average of 41% in 2001 to 16.7% in 2006. This figure definitely went lower than 10% by the end of 2008 when I left NAFDAC but could not be confirmed because a structured study had not been commissioned. I believe our sustained success in Nigeria can be replicated in other developing countries.”

Akunyili, who is also Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Information and Communications, called for global cooperation in the war against fake drugs “since drug counterfeiting involves transnational criminal networks, and can only be dismantled through international collaboration. We must improve information sharing and pay attention to various international trade instruments and cross border controls.”

She regretted that the international community has not given drug counterfeiting the attention it deserves as evidenced by not having a harmonised definition for counterfeit medicine. “We need an International Convention on Counterfeiting of Pharmaceuticals, just as we have for narcotics and psychotropic substances. This will ensure harmonised regulation of pharmaceutical products moving in international commerce,” she stated.

Held from October 23 to 26, the third World Health Summit featured the cream of the world’s intellectuals and was described by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as “the foremost global meeting of its kind to convene leaders from academia, economy, industry, governments, international organisations and civil society around the pressing health issues of our time.”

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