The drug distribution chain in Africa is a growing concern with the problem of fake drugs and misuse of certain medicines. Alfred Olufemi writes about the calls to tighten laws to address these issues.
The United Nations, in 2013, stated that at least 37 000 people in Africa die annually from diseases associated with the consumption of illegal drugs. Experts across the continent believe the major factor responsible for this is the murky pharmaceutical distribution chain.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya recently called for strict laws to be put in place to prevent the misuse of prescription drugs like Midazolam, a powerful sedative.
The drug, nicknamed “Mchele” in Kenya because of its resemblance to rice grains, is used to treat severe insomnia. The society’s Chief Executive Officer, Lucas Nyabero,said a lack of proper measures to regulate the sector has given Kenyans unfettered access to dangerous drugs.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board alsowarned against the use of Diclofenac as self-medication, citing blood clot risks for persons with certain ailments. Diclofenac is usually prescribed for extremely painful conditions such as arthritis.
The use of Midazolam, Diclofenac and other drugs could have been better controlled in Kenya if the proposed amendments to the Pharmacy and Poisons Act had sailed through. According to Alfred Keter, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, pharmacies in Kenya should be prohibited from dispensing medicine without a written prescription from a registered health practitioner.
Keter's bill, which is yet to be passed, seeks an end to the sale of over-the-counter drugs and also proposes that any violator should be liable to a fine of Ksh 30 000 ($256) or three years imprisonment or both.
Keter argues that the sale of over-the-counter medication has encouraged self-diagnosis which has led to the use of the wrong medications at best, and in some circumstances led to death.
Stakeholders at the annual conference of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (PWDAN), held in Lagos, voiced the same concern on regulations.
Director of Registration and Regulatory Affairs at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr Monica Eimunjeze, stressed the need for all stakeholders to play their roles. "From the regulatory perspective, quite a bit has been done and a lot more has to be done. Good distribution practice is something that we need to entrench and you cannot talk about supply chain security without having good practices," she said.
With the alarming rate of fake pharmaceutical products in the market, enhancing the traceability of products will go a long way to improving the situation, Dr Eimunjeze opined.
"There is a regulatory framework in place. We have a distribution framework but we still have a long way to go. If we don't have everybody implementing what we agreed to do, then you have fingers being pointed in different directions,” she noted.
She shared that NAFDAC, in conjunction with the federal ministry of health, has drafted a five-year plan to implement the traceability of pharmaceutical products.
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