The dangers of counterfeit drugs are real. Many of us have heard of cases of people in Nigeria who have lost their lives to unwholesome medications or whose conditions have been seriously aggravated after taking them. In this light, the mobile authentication service (MAS) introduced some time ago by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is a really welcome one.
The Fight against Counterfeit Drugs
While some people might say NAFDAC has not been doing enough to combat the menace of fake drugs – which is quite real – but the watchdog needs to be cut some slack. It has been trying to do the little it can, however insignificant it might seem, arresting counterfeiters and impounding fake drugs valued at several hundreds of millions naira. But in spite of all this, the unscrupulous elements behind drug counterfeiting in the country appear unwilling to give up on their harmful practices.
The NAFDAC mobile authentication service (MAS) is, therefore, a really commendable idea when one thinks of the problematic and troubling state of the pharmaceutical product market in the country. What is this service about? Under this arrangement, manufacturers of anti-malarial and antibiotic medications are required to supply authentication codes overlaid with scratch foil on the label of their products. The supplied 10-digit authentication code on the pack of a drug is to be sent in a text message from a consumer’s phone to a given number. Usually, the drug purchaser will receive a message in return telling them whether the drug bought is original or counterfeit.
Given the way the NAFDAC mobile authentication service is designed to run, it is a very good way to combat the problem of drug counterfeiting in Nigeria. The service has the potential to greatly help consumers easily detect fake medications, thereby saving them money and from grave consequences of the use of such. The MAS was introduced back in 2010, but many people probably do not know much about it until of recent.
Not yet Uhuru
As innovative as the NAFDAC mobile authentication service is and as helpful as it can be, some pharmaceutical companies have been somewhat reluctant to buy into the wonderful idea. I honestly do not understand why these companies are being hesitant about adopting the technology since I’m just an outsider. It is interesting to note that the nation’s drug and food regulator has already commenced clampdown on defaulting drug manufacturers.
Aside the problem of slow adoption of the NAFDAC mobile authentication service, I have personally observed the system does not seem to work as it should. I could recall some weeks back when I had to take some antibiotics, the MAS (more specifically, “goldkeys”) code did not work as I had expected it to. I scratched and sent the provided code to a designated number, but never got any feedback as to whether the drug was genuine or otherwise. The same thing happened with another pack of the same antibiotics that I bought about a week later.
One has to give credit to NAFDAC for coming up with the mobile authentication service, but more efforts needs to be put in to ensure the system works as it should. This will also be beneficial to pharmaceutical companies in terms of increased consumer confidence in their products.