At last, the Federal Government has acceded to the calls by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and other stakeholders to outlaw the sale of drugs in open markets in the country. The measure is targeted at checking the chaotic drug distribution system that has exacerbated the influx of fake and sub-standard drugs into the country over the years. It will, hopefully, go a long way in the spirited fight against the distribution of adulterated drugs in Nigeria.
The government has announced that as from June 30, 2014, drugs would no longer be sold in open markets in Nigeria. The authorities also declared an emergency in the drug distribution system to sanitise the nation’s uncoordinated drug distribution chain.
With the ban, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has introduced Mega Drug Distribution Centres (MDDCs) across the country to ease access to quality drugs.
Similarly, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, explained that the current states’ Central Medical Stores (CMSs) will be used as the take-off hubs for the newly introduced State Drug Distribution Centres (SDDCs). The objective of the new National Drug Distribution Guidelines is that drugs will no longer be sold in open market with effect from the June 30, 2014 deadline. From that date, only manufacturers and importers will channel drugs to SDDCs, MDDCs and other channels. Defaulters will face varying degrees of sanctions.
The guidelines provide for a distribution channel which would help to identify sources of drugs at every level of healthcare and create orderliness in drug distribution. This will equally address the proliferation of sub-standard medicines in the unregulated open drug market. To this end, all healthcare facilities at all levels, including private facilities, are given directives on drug procurement activities in the new guidelines.
We commend the Federal Government for this timely ban. It is important that stakeholders join hands with the authorities to ensure the success of the new scheme. Although this action is belated, it is better now than never.
We salute the doggedness of the current and past leaderships of PSN, both at state and national levels, that have campaigned vigorously for the eradication of drug sales in open markets located in various urban centres in the country, especially, Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Onitsha and Aba.
The outlawing of open market drug sales is a step in the right direction. Apart from ensuring professionalism and orderliness in the nation’s drug distribution system, it will help in the fight against fake and sub-standard drugs in the country. For so long, the sale of drugs in open markets has been blamed for the influx and flourishing of adulterated medicines in the country. Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world where drugs are purchased like food items. At times, some of these drugs are displayed under the sun in total disregard of drug storage and dispensing rules. Illiterate traders that do not have knowledge of drugs sell and dispense medicines to the detriment of end users’ health. They must be stopped now that government has placed a ban on unauthorised channels of drug distribution.
With this ban planned for June next year, it is hoped that the initiative will be made to work. It is good that the government has given sufficient notice to those involved in this anomalous trade. This long notice should afford them the opportunity to properly position themselves for whatever other opportunities the ban may throw up, or find other lines of businesses. Let pharmacists and the public support the government and the PSN to make this plan a success. The public should be enlightened on the need to patronize recognised drug outlets in order to avoid quacks.
Government must, however, ensure that the drug distribution outlets are available and accessible to the public. The laws against illegal drug outlets should be strictly enforced while persons that flout them should be readily apprehended and tried. Let the authorities of NAFDAC leverage on this ban and launch more spirited attacks against fake and adulterated drugs in the country. Nigeria should no longer be a safe haven for all manner of fake drugs. This is the time to eradicate the menace.