Nigeria’s Marathon Fight Against Counterfeit Medicines


  1. Olwatocin Adeshokan,
  2. Christine Lawfreelance journalist
  1. Lagos
  1. christineannro{at}gmail.com

Counterfeit and substandard medicines are not uncommon in Africa.Coordinated Enforcement Efforts and Revised Regulations Have Reduced Problems in Nigeria, But Roots Still Remain, Report Says Olwatocin Adeshokan and Christine Law

At a large warehouse in the northern Nigerian city of Jos, people repackage medicines smuggled from Southeast Asia into the capital, Lagos, including pain relievers, antiretrovirals and erectile dysfunction drugs, before being shipped to Jos. The new packaging is labeled in English and has a Nigerian registration number and a false date of manufacture. Often these convincingly mimic the logos of trusted brands.

Such counterfeits are on the more visible side of ‘fake drugs’ in Nigeria. Cyril Usifour, president of the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Association, said in some cases batches of counterfeit drugs are mixed with small amounts of genuine products. This allows it to pass quality control. “we [really] The problem is product contamination,” says Lagos pharmacist Nelly Okupako. These are not intentionally counterfeit products, but are substandard medicines that differ significantly in the amount of active ingredient advertised.1

Overall, there is consensus that the placebo problem is much less severe in Nigeria than it used to be. Data are patchy, but one estimate is that in 2001 at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s medicines were substandard and counterfeit medicines.2 These were mostly basic off-the-shelf drugs such as antibiotics and antimalarials. “There was a time in Nigeria when you couldn’t buy anything. [real] It’s a drug,” said Bisi Bright, a pharmacist who heads the nonprofit LiveWell Initiative.

Nigeria’s National Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) claims that at least 85% of medicines currently on the market are genuine, but this is disputed by some.3 (NAFDAC did not respond to a list of questions from) BMJMore.) The actual numbers are…



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