curbing quackery in the Nigerian Pharmaceutical sector

A woman came to the pharmacy complaining of an adverse drug reaction that the child of 2 years was having. Apparently they had purchased an antimalarial for the child from a chemist, a few days earlier.

The chemist gave them Amatem soft-gel 80/480 (adult dose) and told the woman to cut one soft gel into two and give the child. Clearly the child was not tolerating the drug formulation and dosage, hence was reacting badly to it.

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Chief amongst the reaction was body itching and drooling, which usually lasts for hours after the drug administration. One could then imagine other reactions going on within the child which he can’t clearly explain.

But do you entirely blame the mother for administering such drugs for the child? Of course not, you blame the chemist and then regulatory agencies that allow quackery to thrive around us. One would erroneously think that a city like Lagos which is almost saturated with community pharmacies has less of these ‘chemists’ thriving but that’s not the true picture.

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In the streets of Shomolu, far down to the streets of Alimosho people bring out tables at night to sell drugs. By drugs I mean contemporary medicines sold by any pharmacy around. They are so littered around that almost every bus stop on the street has at least two. One may even mistake them for biscuit sellers.

Should we even talk about those that carry orthodox medicines in bags and sell in Obalende under bridge in Lagos Island? The guts and effrontery of the people in this class really needs to be studied in Lagos business school, because omoo I have never seen such boldness elsewhere.

curbing quackery in the pharmaceutical industry

Exact image of how medicines are sold at under bridge Obalende, Lagos Nigeria

Meanwhile, can we even quantify the impact these levels of quackery have on the lives of Nigerians? Perhaps not, but suffice to mention that it will be a lot, as worse cases are seen every day both in community pharmacies and hospitals all around the country. Therefore, curbing quackery in the Nigerian pharmaceutical sector has become a sine qua non for a healthy life, as far as Nigerians are concerned.

Ways of curbing quackery in the Nigerian Pharmaceutical sector

  1. Public sensitization

One of the major ways of curbing quackery in the Nigerian Pharmaceutical sector is to sensitize the public against mindless venture into pharmaceutical and allied businesses. This has become important because almost every “rich” man in Nigeria (especially those without a pharmacy background) feel that one of the best investments to secure a good future for themselves and their unborn generation is to open pharmacy.

The resultant effect of this mindless venture is an illegal and unhealthy business agreement between the rich owners and young Pharmacists who are struggling to find their feet. Therefore, it has become important at this point, to remind Nigerians that in as much as it looks appealing from the outside to own a pharmacy business, the intricacies therein are somewhat complex.

People also need to be reminded that such areas as agriculture, power and housing are almost virgin areas and they are largely untapped. Investments into these areas will be more beneficial to the Nigerian populace (and the investor) than insisting on owning and managing a pharmacy, especially when you’re not trained to do so.

  1. Stricter regulations

Regulatory bodies such as Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and NAFDAC should throw their searching lights into the streets of Lagos (and other parts of Nigeria) to extract these quacks that are thriving effortlessly. The duty of curbing quackery in the pharmaceutical sector should be a high priority for these bodies especially as we can’t guarantee a standard data for the impact these illicit practices have on Nigerians.

However, I do not really suggest that an immediate clamp down should begin overnight, I am actually of the opinion that some sort of information or grace or amnesty should be offered to these people in exchange for them to change their ways.  A typical way of doing this could be by introducing programs that will help convert the businesses run by these quacks into a more legit, non-pharmaceutical businesses.

At the expiration of this amnesty, the regulatory bodies can therefore execute their duties of arresting and prosecuting offenders in very good conscience, of course with the backing of the law.

  1. Entrepreneurship grant for young pharmacists

One of the strategies we can also employ in curbing quackery in the pharmaceutical sector especially as it concerns community pharmacy practice in Nigeria is by providing entrepreneurship grants to young pharmacists, especially those who have shown innovation and commitment to uplifting the pharmacy practice and the health sector in general.

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Grants like this will help reduce occasions where young pharmacists are cajoled into using their license to cover for non-pharmacists. However, this does not in any way excuse those who engage in such practices. It only suggests ways things can be done better.

  1. Radical public health campaigns

What I refer to as radical public health campaigns is that in which pharmacists and other health professionals will take public health campaigns to every corner of the country, be it inside the villages, churches, mosques and even clubs.

Do you know why this is important? It is because you may be amazed at how many Nigerians who have a PhD and still believe that antibiotics like ampiclox are used to flush the body after having unprotected sex or that staphylococcus causes the rather funny ‘toilet infection’. More health awareness campaign is needed in Nigeria.

What is a toilet infection by the way? We will discuss the myths and misconceptions surrounding that in subsequent post.

  1. Stricter laws on herbal medicines

On a personal note, I feel that most herbal medicine vendors in Nigeria are a total nuisance. They play pre-recorded messages full of bizarre health information all-round the streets of Nigeria. Some of them even buy time on radio stations where they advertise their business of providing solutions to all your medical problems. The effect of not checking these excesses is that the public are fed with the wrong health information, which becomes difficult to control or counter in the long run.

You think this is a joke? Then ask any average Nigerian on the street what they know about staphylococcus aureus and you will be shocked to hear that it is sexually transmitted and that it even causes barrenness. Should we even talk about what informs the use of antibiotics (especially ampiclox) for most people? Maybe we shouldn’t, because you may be shocked to know some people use ampiclox every month after menstruating and others take it to prevent pregnancy.

Who takes the responsibility for churning out these purulent information? Your guess is as good as mine, because we all see them packed in rickety cars close to every market, where they play their recorded and noisy messages to the hearing of every Nigerian. Stopping these unwarranted outreaches, will be a good step in the right direction towards curbing quackery in the Nigerian pharmaceutical sector.

What are your opinions on ways quackery can be curbed in the Nigerian pharmaceutical and health sector? Drop your comments below.

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About Ishima

Ishima™ is a Pharmacist with special interests in the management of chronic illnesses, gender studies, mental health and psychotherapy. He is the convener of #SaveTheBoyChildMovement which is geared at repositioning the place of men in the society and redefining masculinity . He is a writer, a crazy poet and a firm believer in making the world a better place.

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