Nigeria Embraces Anti-Counterfeiting Technology in Fight Against Fake Drugs

Nigeria, one of the countries that has been hit hardest by counterfeit drugs, is continuing to battle the public health menace even though the criminals are getting more sophisticated at producing and disguising fake medicine.

Leading the fight is Dr. Paul Orhii, the director-general of the country’s National Agency for Food And Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), who told the Nigerian Observer that he has been committed to ridding Nigeria of fake drugs and has embraced anti-counterfeiting technology to do so.

“When I assumed office, I promised to bring international standards to bear on NAFDAC regulatory activities,” he said. “In pursuit of this laudable goal, we sought for cutting edge technologies as veritable tools to fight drug counterfeiting. This led to the acquisition of [anti-counterfeiting] equipment.”

Orhii said that this anti-counterfeiting technology, which can test the authenticity of drugs on the spot, has been used in a number of NAFDAC raids throughout the country.

“Using the [anti-counterfeiting technology], our officials visited major pharmacies, drug markets and patent medicine shops in Lagos, Onitsha, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja,” he told the news provider. “Random sampling was done for anti-malarials, antibiotics, anti-diabetics and pain killers, among other drugs. Our findings showed that while some pharmacies stock genuine drugs, some of the shops stock fake medicines. We immediately closed those shops down and made arrests.”

This on-site testing device is just one of many anti-counterfeiting technologies used in Nigeria to help stop the counterfeit drug trade.

One such technology involves the placement of codes on pharmaceutical packaging by manufacturers. When consumers get the medicine they text the code on their cell phone to the authorities who then verify the code and the product’s authenticity. The authorities then relay this information back to the consumer.

Orhii also said that cooperation between government agencies is essential in Nigeria’s fight against counterfeit drugs.

“In furtherance of inter-agency co-operation, the National Drug Law Enforcement agency (NDLEA) in cooperation with NAFDAC has handed over a suspect with a large sack of Lonart [an anti-malarial medication] DS tablets which were intercepted at Seme Border post,” he said. “The NDLEA has also handed over to NAFDAC a suspect with a large sack of suspected fake Lonart tablets. Furthermore, the Nigerian Customs Service has agreed to partner with the NAFDAC by sending the manifests of regulated products for examination before release of consignments.”