Global health challenges caused by poor quality drugs in low and middle income countries like Nigeria is a major concern to national governments.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly one-third of the world’s population lacks access to even the most basic medicine. This figure climbs to nearly half the population in the poorest parts of Asia and Africa.
WHO estimates that 10 percent of medicine in low and middle income countries are either fake or substandard. A new study published in the JAMA Network Open journal suggests that this number may even be close to 19 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
This, according to experts, is a result of unavailability of essential, generic medicines and lack of access to treatment due to cost. People may be inclined to procure medicines from informal sources, such as street markets. These products typically contain medicine of unknown origins that often could be falsified and substandard. They may be less effective, toxic, or even cause death.
The Head of Party, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) in Nigeria, Dr. Chimezie Anyakora, explains the importance and focus of the Promoting Quality of Medicine (PQM) program. These issues are addressed by working closely with pharmaceutical manufacturers, to correcting market failures and addressing supply chain issues. This ensures a steady supply of affordable, quality-assured medicines in communities across Nigeria.
Anyakora said: “The PQM programme is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the USP, a nearly 200 year-old American non governmental organisation whose mission is to improve global health through public standards and related programs that help ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of medicines and foods.
In Nigeria and many lower and middleincome countries throughout the world, the PQM programme is working to prevent a major health challenge–preventing poor-quality medicines from reaching patients.
In the context of worldwide and regional statistics by the World Health Organisation, Nigeria is one of the PQM programme’s focus countries. Thus, PQM supports the country with expertise from both its headquarters in the U.S. and a local office in Lagos. This intense level of assistance has been going on for the past five years.
One of the main objectives is to ensure the sustainability of activities when the program ends in September 2019. This will come through a combination of country ownership and collaboration with future programmes like PQM.
The PQM programme works with governments to strengthen regulatory systems and with manufacturers to increase the supply of quality-assured medicines. Like in any programme funded by USAID, PQM considers the in-country organisations it supports to be partners and seeks to meet those organisations’ goals.
On issues of regulation, The partner in Nigeria is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). This body is essential in ensuring the quality of medicine in the country meets a required standard as well as approving new medicines for the national market and monitoring the quality of medicines in circulation.
PQM is particularly working to ensure that NAFDAC’s product testing laboratories gain accreditation from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), which means their facilities and the tests they conduct meet international standards. In other words, the results of any test they conduct will be recognised and accepted worldwide.