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Health Alert: 50 percent Nigerian consumers are illiterates, don’t read products information for quality, efficacy –NAFDAC

Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of NAFDAC

*Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control explains how the health regulatory agency, other industry stakeholders, including consumers, can help in combating the scourge of fake and adulterated products in market places

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) stated this in a recent interview with Channels TV.

Earlier reports had quoted Prof. Adeyeye to have said that 50 percent of pharmaceutical products imported into were fake.

While featuring on the station’s programme Wednesday, February 7, 2024, Prof. Adeyeye, among other issues, explained that she was reported out of context in connection with the alleged pronouncement of 50 percent counterfeit medicines in the country.

The Director-General of NAFDAC clarified she actually meant that “50 percent of the certification” accompanying several products was fake, and not the actual medicines as was widely reported.

She further explained that the products that could have come into Nigeria were stopped due to fake certification and documentation in their countries of manufacture.

“We stopped those products from coming in through the pre-shipment testing before they left the countries where they were coming from.

“Probably, it could have been misunderstood. What we have in NAFDAC now is the pre-shipment testing,” Adeyeye stated.

According to her, any approved products imported into the country must go through NAFDAC clean report inspection analyst, TRIA.

“And those that failed would not come. This was what I meant.

What we sometimes found out was that those products in question were those that were already approved but were later discovered to have fake documentation,” Adeyeye said.

The Director-General also noted: “How we got to know was that at that point when the products were being tested; we found out that they failed the test, and we did not allow them to come to the country. None of those products came into Nigeria.

“There were about 140 approved products. And when you talk of approval, you are talking of a 5-year approval.

“So it will be tens and tens of containers over the years.”

On pre-shipment testing

Prof. Adeyeye said that the health sector regulatory agency had stopped those products through the pres-shipment test.

She further explained: “We also dug deep into the documentation that accompanied those fake products.

“And we found out that over 50 percent of the documentation was fake- that was for those that we did not allow to come in. “Although we had approved after we saw them; they failed the test. So they could not be shipped into the country.”

As regards how NAFDAC detects fake documentation of medicines and other consumer healthcare products, she disclosed the regulatory agency has “networks”.

Adeyeye also said: “You know the certificate of pharmaceutical products is supposed to be given by the central regulatory agency in India.

“But that was not usually the case. The state of the provinces in India also has its agency, unlike Nigeria which has only NAFDAC.

“The state was the one that issued this Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (COPP).”

She also explained: “One of our colleagues dug deep into the certificate of pharmaceutical products that we sent because they wanted to know more about our pre-shipment processes.

“They were the ones who discovered that over 50 per cent of the documentation was fake. So it was not the products that came into Nigeria. No. we don’t have over 50 per cent of our drugs in Nigeria as fake. No.”

The Director-General, however, affirmed in the interview that the agency still intensifies effort at addressing “about 12 per cent fake products which we are trying to reduce to 5 percent.”

On how long it requires NAFDAC to approve imported products in Nigeria, Adeyeye stated this process “takes about 12 months to get a product approved because it goes through the dossier package which includes quality, safety and efficacy tests.”

She equally asserted that product importers usually “package it into chapters through our electronic platforms.

“It may take months before it is approved. Then they will now go for the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspection review.

“We also need to know the reputation of the company producing the products.”

Menace of fake, adulterated products in Nigeria

In respect of how the regulatory authorities address the nagging issue of fake and counterfeit products, including medicines and other pharmaceutical products in the West African country, NAFDAC Chief said: “Unfortunately, we do not catch the barons but the foot soldiers.

“It is just once in a while that we arrest the big guys, and whenever we do; we prosecute them.”

She stated: “NAFDAC has a team of investigation and enforcement team. Also, the Federal task force is domiciled in NAFDAC.

“But in terms of food and drugs; we have a lot of challenges in that area- first because of our population, and because of the countries around our borders.

“But what we do is what you call market control, a module for which we benchmark the products. We also have a market control system.”

Adeyeye also noted: “After registration; we go to the pre-shipment stage. And if they pass, we go and inspect the distribution house, and then they pass and go into the market.

“Then we do post marketing which includes the mystery shopping- just to be sure that they had not changed the products that we had approved.

“There was a time when we had approved a product, but just before they were delivered; we got an intelligence report that it had been cloned in China already.

“There are many methods we have to check the authenticity of products.”

50 percent of Nigerian consumers are illiterate, don’t read to seek products information, says Adeyeye

In her suggestion on how Nigerians themselves can help the regulators in combating the scourge of fake and adulterated products in market places, the Director-General of NAFDAC asserted though it is a community effort, we have to engage our population daily.”

She stated: “About 50 per cent of Nigerians are illiterate. They do not read. That is why we now use social media, too.

“We also use the scratch mobile phone method. But soon, we plan on using the barcode method, where you would be required to use your phone to scan the barcode.

“We also do the onsite testing/scan. So we use your phone to scan, and it would tell you how safe the product is for consumption.

Adeyeye also identified the local manufacturing players.

“Nigerians can tip us and we would visit the local manufacturer and test the products.

“And if we found out that the products are not good; we shut the structure down,” she said.

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