The Senate Committee on Health has blamed the current rigmarole and delay being experienced in the handling of Counterfeit Medical Products, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Prohibition and Control) Bill by the Executive as one reason the bill might not be passed during the fourth assembly.
Chairman, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who gave the hint in Lagos Thursday during the committee’s oversight visit to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said the National Assembly was eagerly waiting the bill.
However, he regretted that by the time the bill, which was originated by NAFDAC and introduced over a year ago, would leave the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to the National Assembly, it would have delayed so much that the assembly might not have enough time to debate, amend and pass it into law before 2015.
The bill intends to make fakers of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria liable to life imprisonment, have their assets confiscated to compensate the victims of adulterated drugs and make drug adulteration a non-bailable offence, as is done in India.
Okowa, who was accompanied by four members of the committee, however, congratulated NAFDAC for introducing various anti-counterfeiting technologies, including Truscan and Message Authentication Service (MAS), and for enlisting Nigerian pharmaceutical companies into the World Health Organisation (WHO)-Pre-qualification Programme, which currently involves eight Nigerian companies.
Reacting, the NAFDAC Director-General, Dr. Paul Orhii, said the importance of the anti-counterfeiting bill could not be over-emphasised as drugs counterfeiting remained one of the agency’s major challenges.
Orhii listed the factors encouraging counterfeiting in the country to include large population, porous borders, heavy disease burden, low local production capacity, and the country’s good buying power.
He further listed the most counterfeited drugs to include anti-malaria, anti-hypertensive, antibiotics, anti-diabetes and lifestyles drugs.
Orhii called for increased budgeting for the agency to enable it do its work, stating that it has achieved much in fighting anti-counterfeiting with various technologies, which has placed it among the best 20 drug regulatory agencies in the world.