4 December 2008

Nigeria: Killer Paracetamol


Lagos — The death of 39 children linked to a brand of paracetamol identified as My Pikin, has once again confirmed the tragic consequences of the circulation of fake, substandard and adulterated drugs in our society which in turn is a sad testament to our inability as a nation to guarantee the health of infants for that matter.

It would be recalled that Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Dora Akunyili, had raised alarm over the incident when she said that laboratory tests conducted on the product revealed that it contained a deadly element known as diethyl glycol.

The Agency had also in the recent past announced in a similar way the presence of adulterated baby food, which contained Chinese melamine. The products were not only confiscated but also burnt while the firms linked with the killer food were sealed off and their officials arrested. This even led to the outright ban of finished imported milk products from China.

While we commend NAFDAC for sustaining the fight against deadly drugs, which has also translated into an improvement in the awareness on and a great reduction in the circulation of these drugs, this however, does not mean that those bent on making money from fake products have gone to sleep.

There is no doubting the fact that some drugs have adverse effects on people while some reactions to others may have been detected during inspection and at the laboratory testing stages before being certified for the market. The regulatory authorities must therefore intensify efforts in checking deaths and negative reactions to these drugs.

Without undermining what is being done now, the regulators will need to beam searchlights and conduct routine checks on both local production and importation of fake and substandard drugs. There are those involved who are still ignorant of the relevant laws and as such do not yet see the need to seek necessary approval from the authorized agencies before flooding the market at the expense of the innocent consumers.

Therefore, in the case of the My Pikin drug we strongly advocate that this case be thoroughly investigated to ascertain there was no deliberate attempt to sabotage the product as well as the manufacturer; whose premises had already been sealed by NAFDAC.

Meanwhile, it has become imperative that government pays attention to the manufacture and circulation of drugs. Health, they say, is wealth and to build a healthy citizen that will in turn ensure the wealth of the nation, government must be committed by showing concern for the quality of drugs in circulation.

While we urge those affected to urgently respond to government's call to report at nearby hospitals for attention at no cost to them in order to get the needed treatment, there is however a duty for both parents and consumers in general to follow prescriptions before administering drugs on their children.

More than ever before, the need to know the quality, standard and possibly opinions of experts on the efficacy or otherwise of a drug needs not be ignored.

Manufacturers particularly within a product line should also cooperate among themselves to devise ways and means to follow up the performance of their product in the market. Through consumer-feedback, the manufacturers will also detect underground and clandestine operations by drug barons who are out to sabotage their good names and standard of their products.

They also have to work with the regulators in order to effectively monitor the market and prevent the unhealthy practice of recycling expired drugs which may have an unwholesome effect on their reputation.

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