A decade ago, half of Nigeria’s medicines were fake or substandard. Today, it’s less than 15 percent, based on a new study I’ve published today with Paul Orhii, Head of NAFDAC (Nigeria’s health regulator), and others.
The Nigerian government has accomplished this by seizing shipments of fake medicines, making arrests, and deploying hand-held technology to help find bad drugs before they hit the marketplace.
TruScan, a handheld raman spectrometer that can determine, with considerable accuracy, whether a sample of medicine has the appropriate chemical makeup or not. NAFDAC agents are deploying the tool in the field; when samples fail the TruScan test, they’re collected and followed up with testing in the lab.
Our study comparing TruScan quality testing results with those from the lab is the largest field study of its kind to date. And the results demonstrate that the TruScan device is effective at identifying fake and substandard medicines, without falsely identifying good ones.
Nigeria’s progress is inspiring. Still, as we argue in an op-ed on FoxNews.com today, there is only so much that Nigeria or any country can do on its own, or even through regional cooperation. Winning the global war on bad medicine will require an international treaty that sets clear standards for drug quality – and enforces severe penalties for offenders.
We’ve had a global treaty against counterfeit bank notes since 1929. Surely patients deserve the same protections in the 21st century. Until then, we may continue to win battles against purveyors of fake and substandard medicines, armed with new technologies and strong political leadership. But we will never win the war on bad medicine.