The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) mooted a bill prescribing life imprisonment for fake drug manufacturers and importers. The bill, which has passed the second reading in the House, is being deliberated upon to tighten the noose on manufacturers and distributors by amending the Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (miscellaneous) Act Cap C34 of 2004. The maximum of life sentence new bill is to replace the slap-on-wrist maximum jail of 15 years with an option of N500,000.
In the new amendment, hawkers of prescription drugs risk seven years jail term, while all convicted fake drug producers and peddlers would have their properties confiscated to compensate identified victims of fake drugs. Hawkers in open markets may pay N5 million fine in lieu of imprisonment or serve both sentencing. The draft bill however provided for an option of N10 million fines for manufacturers or life imprisonment or both. Also trapped in the new punishment are aiders and abettors to sell or display any counterfeit, adulterated, banned or fake, substandard or expired drugs or unwholesome processed food in any form whatsoever commits an offence.
China and India are the major sources of counterfeit drugs to Nigeria and the rest of the world. It must be noted that countries like China will not spare the life of any fake drug peddler. The NAFDAC under its former Director-General, Prof. Dora Akunyuli, effectively fought criminals. The current Director-General Dr Paul Orhi believes there must be continuous and rigorous campaign against this illicit trade, with faces of the convicted perpetrators published in the media to deter others. Research showed 85 percent of the anti-malarial drugs in Nigerian markets were inert, contributing to the epidemic of treatment failures, drug resistant malaria parasites, disability and death. Treatment failures have been traced to use of fake drugs in many renal diseases, such as kidney failure, liver problem, heart failure, asthma, resistant malaria and cancerous bones.
Passing the bill would help NAFDAC in the fight against counterfeit drugs and prevent complications and deaths of innocent Nigerians.Victims of fake drugs are also likely to be compensated under the new law.