(IRIN) – Pharmaceutical drug-sellers in the northern city of Kano are fighting moves by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to close their businesses as it tries to clamp down on counterfeit drug sales in Nigeria.
Most of northern Nigeria’s counterfeit drugs are sold in Kano – the commercial hub of the north – and most of those in Sabon Gari market, where drug traders operate without regulation, according to NAFDAC. Kano’s population of 9.2 million also provides a huge market for pharmaceutical drugs.
“Anyone can go and buy any kind of drug without control or a prescription, with most of them fake drugs sold like vegetables,” said Ibrahim Musa, a doctor at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.
NAFDAC and Kano State health officials have long accused Sabon Gari traders of running a thriving counterfeit drug business, complete with fake drug warehouses. The most common counterfeit drugs are antibiotics and anti-malarials.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has rated the market Africa’s largest source of fake anti-malarial drugs, according to Ahmed Gana, head of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in Kano, and a member of the Kano Taskforce on Fake and Sub-standard Drugs. A 2008 WHO study put the incidence of fake anti-malarials in sub-Saharan Africa at 64 percent.
On 31 December 2012, following months of eviction threats, NAFDAC raided the market to force out 650 drug traders they claimed were selling fake drugs, calling on them to register with a regulation agency and set up shop outside the market.
Traders fought back. On 10 December 2012 the National Association of Patent and Propriety Medicines (NAPPMED), which represents 5,000 traders, took out a one-week restraining order from the Federal High Court stopping the government from forcing them out. Though this expired on 18 December, NAPPMED claims the judge did not turn up to the hearing so the restraining order still stands.
On 8 January 2013 “we resolved to reopen our shops because of advice from our lawyers,” Hussein Labaran Zakari, Kano State chairman of NAPPMED, told IRIN.
“Although there are unscrupulous traders that engage in the sale of fake drugs… you cannot punish an entire group over the fault of a few bad apples,” Zakari said.
Pic by David Hecht- IRIN