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Awareness Creation to Reduce Illicit Drug Peddling, Says Ali-Balogun

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Ali-Balogun, the convener of NECCI PR Roundtable 2023, emphasized the importance of communication in combating illicit trade in Nigeria.

During the 23rd edition of NECCI PR Roundtable 2023 held at Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos, she highlighted the advancements in the pharmaceutical industry and its potential to improve lives.

However, she expressed concern over the negative impact of illicit trade on the industry’s mission and the trust between patients and the industry. She emphasized the role of communication as a powerful tool in the fight against illicit trade.

She stated, “Communication plays a vital role in sharing best practices, raising awareness, fostering collaboration among stakeholders, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and ensuring transparency in the supply chain to track products from manufacturer to patients.”

When asked about her resilience in the industry for the past twenty-three years, Ali-Balogun attributed it to her passion and patriotism.

She declared, “Regardless of the challenges, I love Nigeria. We have so much to celebrate and discuss in this country.”

Ali-Balogun identified funding as a major challenge and expressed willingness to partner with the government.

Addressing the event’s theme, “Fighting the Scourge of Illicit Trade in the Pharma Industry: The Role of Communication,” she lamented the rising death toll caused by fake drugs.

She questioned, “How long will people continue to buy drugs without knowing if they are fake or not? How do they identify counterfeit drugs or understand the consequences of taking them? I have witnessed people dying from fake drugs and makeshift medical practices. It’s getting worse.”

During her keynote address, Professor Moji Adeyeye, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), emphasized the threat posed by sub-standard and falsified medicines to public health and economic growth.

Adeyeye stated, “Illicit sales and distribution of sub-standard and falsified medicines are hindering the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and negatively impacting public health worldwide. This menace brings severe financial losses and could even lead to the closure of pharmaceutical businesses.”

She emphasized that the battle against illicit trade requires a multi-faceted approach and collaboration among multiple agencies.

Adeyeye mentioned various gaps that need to be addressed, including uncoordinated drug distribution and supply chain systems, drug hawking, proliferation of street/open drug markets, use of postal/courier services for fake drug shipments, lack of deterrent laws and weak penalties, and the unchecked online sales of medicines.

To bridge these gaps, NAFDAC is taking steps such as attaining ISO9001:2015 certification and WHO Maturity Level 3.

Adeyeye explained, “This certification signifies that NAFDAC operates as a stable, well-functioning, and integrated regulatory system for medicines and imported vaccines. It ensures access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all Nigerians in line with the goal of Universal Health Coverage.”

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