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Amy Ritter was Scientific Editor, BioPharm International.
The distribution of counterfeit drugs is a serious problem in Nigeria, as in many developing nations, driven by the desire of an impoverished population for drugs at the lowest possible price. A recent video report from CNN highlights Nigeria’s response to this problem, which includes vigilant police work, and a novel strategy for easily identifying legitimate products adopted by some Nigerian manufacturers:
The strategy is the innovation of the Boston-based company Sproxil, and relies on a code contained on a scratch card within the drug packaging. Consumers can enter the code by phone and receive instant confirmation that the product is legitimate. Manufacturers pay for the service and have been able to recapture market share from the counterfeit market. In CNN’s video, Dr. Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil states: “In a sense, the counterfeiters are paying for this service, which puts a smile on everyone’s face, except the counterfeiters.”
In addition to local solutions, Nigeria is reaching out to its trade partners to help combat this problem. On Mar. 16, 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of pharmaceuticals was signed between Nigeria’s Department of Pharmaceuticals and India’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. Among other things, the document outlines policies that will help promote mutual trade in good quality drugs, drug testing and analysis, and detection and prevention of the supply of adulterated, fake, drugs. The agreement stipulates a stiff penalty ¾ life imprisonment ¾ for Indians caught producing or distributing counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Nigeria, as well as confiscation of property by the government.