NAFDAC's Recent Feats [opinion]

We, as Nigerians should make a determined paradigm shift from mainly criticizing, castigating and condemning government’s policies and programmes and their operators without also highlighting the great achievements of some of its Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs).That is, if we want to encourage any meaningful and sustainable economic development in the country. Unfortunately, unnecessary politicking and sentiments in this season of campaigns have taken the shine off some of these achievements.
Incidentally, one of such Agencies that deserves our commendation is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control,NAFDAC for a flurry of scientific feats it has achieved in recent years. These include the ISO 17025 accreditation of its Mycotoxin and the Pesticides Residues laboratories by the American Association of Laboratory(AALA), ranking them as amongst the best anywhere in the world, the introduction of cutting-edge anti-counterfeiting technologies such as Truscan, Black Eye(Infra Red), Black Eye and Global Pharma Health Fund(GPHF) Mini Lab Test Kits and Radio Frequency Identification System(RFID). NAFDAC is the first regulatory agency in the world to use the Truscan. There is also the deployment of cutting-edge technology to test water which the producers of sundry packaged ‘pure’ and bottled water must adhere to. Almost on weekly basis, media reports attest to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of those involved in the production and marketing of fake processed food and drugs.
Another feather in NAFDAC’s colourful cap was the election of the highly resourceful and goal-getting Director General, Dr.Paul Orhii as the first-ever substantive Chairman of the 193-member WHO Member State Mechanism on Spurious, Falsely Labeled, Falsified and Counterfeit (SSFFCV) medicinal products. Little wonder that under Dr.Orhii, NAFDAC is currently ranked amongst the world’s top-20 international coalition of elite Medicine Regulatory Authorities in the world, with only South Africa as the other African country in that ivy league.
All these are well-deserved as Orhii has taken NAFDAC to the next level in the global drug anti-counterfeiting battle, by pioneering the use of cutting edge technology and putting the health of Nigerians directly in their own hands.
While Truscan is hand-held device for on-the-spot detection of counterfeit medicines, Black Eye, made in Israel is bench-top equipment using Infra Red technology to detect fake drugs. On its part, the RFID is used for verification of regulated products and other sensitive documents. The MAS technology is also known as Scratch and Text messaging system. It enables consumers to confirm whether the drug they intend to purchase is genuine or not through the use of a mobile phone. This useful technology is registered with the major telecommunication networks in the country such as Glo, MTN, Airtel, Etisalat while the text message is at no cost to the consumers. The consumer finds a distinctive panel on the medicine packet/card with the necessary instructions and scratches the surface to reveal a ten-digit pin. What he does next is to simply text the ten-digit pin to the code number on the panel and in few seconds the consumer receives an SMS confirming whether the drug is genuine or not. This technology also confirms the name of the drug, NAFDAC registration number on the product, the name of manufacturer, the batch number and expiry date and an enquiry number. Brilliant isn’t it?
This life-saving innovation launched by Dr. Paul Orhii has put the power of detecting counterfeit medicines in the hands of over 100 million Nigerian cell phone users. It is remarkable to the extent that is all-inclusive. It has subtly enrolled them in the fight against drug counterfeiting through the drastic reduction in their circulation and sales.
Taking it further and to ensure that consumers buy only drugs that are of high quality, wholesome and safe NAFDAC has directed all manufacturers, importers and marketers to provide only drugs that are MAS-enabled. They could be anti-malarial, anti-biotic or anti-diabetics drugs but must conform with stipulated rules and regulations.
To further enhance the level of publicity, NAFDAC has taken the campaigns on MAS down to the grassroots; to schools, hospitals and to the general public.
Good enough the Agency has latched on the NAFDAC/NYSC-CDS group as vanguards of the campaign to assist in spreading the massage. The mobile phone solution for drugs as introduced by NAFDAC was made possible with the partnership of GSM operators, Sproxil Technology and pharmaceutical companies in the country. NAFDAC kicked off with the scratch and text technology on anti-diabetic drugs in 2010 and Biofem Company was the first to embrace it. Since then, it has been a massive success.
Still on the deployment of technology, NAFDAC has launched mobile application to help increase consumer engagement. These device types include Smart phones, Palm tops, Table pc’s, personal digital assistant (PDA) and Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA).The “mobile app” engages consumers and the general public with rich features that keeps them updated about the latest news, events, guidelines and safety alerts from NAFDAC right in the palm of their hands. Anyone with a mobile device globally can download the app and stay updated about the agency on the go.
The launched app which is on the android platform can be downloaded on all devices running on the android operating system from the online store at www.play.google.com. Search for the term “NAFDAC” and follow the instructions to download and install within a minute.
According to the DG of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, there is currently a drastic reduction of the failure of anti-malaria drugs from 64 per cent to 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2008 to 2011.And Nigeria has contributed much in this regard. Strengthened by Food and Drug ACT CAP R32 LFN of 2004, NAFDAC has lived up to its core mandate; to regulate the manufacturing, production, sales, distribution and importation of adulterated, fake, sub-standard, unwholesome processed foods and drugs. It does not take rocket science to imagine the millions of lives saved daily by these laudable projects. Undoubtedly, NAFDAC is one of the agencies that has excelled with the President Jonathan-inspired Transformation Agenda.