Many years ago, I saw a bottle of Ampiclox suspension by Beecham, that contained baby food that had ampiclox powder sprinkled around the bottle. May God bless the soul of Prof Dora Akunyili who fought the battle of fake drugs, without regards to her life.
Unfortunately, 12 years after her tenure, the dilemma of fake drugs is getting strong again. A fake or adulterated product can be a product that contains a different active ingredient(s) than it claims to contain, contains lower than normal quantity of the active ingredient, contains the right active ingredient but is being sold using the name of a different popular brand or has an altered expiry date. The Nigerian pharmaceutical market is replete with these types of product and unfortunately for consumers, if you don’t know, you may never know.
Nafdac started the use of scratch cards to verify original brands but it’s depressing to know that even fake products now have scratch cards that tell you the fake product is original. So what can you do as a consumer?
1. Always buy your drugs from a reputable source. The suppliers of fake products consider the standard of a pharmacy/shop before having the morale to supply such products.
2. Look carefully at the lot no, manufacturing and expiry date before buying. Most malpractice will center around there.
a. Check to confirm the date on the drug packet is the same as that on the card. Get suspicious if they aren’t the same.
b. Don’t buy if you don’t see any date at all on the card
c. Check if there’s variance between the lot/batch no on the packet vis a vis the date on both packet and card. For example, packet may bear lot no 1asdf and expiry date, 12/08/22 but in the card you may see lot no, 1asdf and expiry date 12/08/20.
d. Look well to be sure all the characters of the date are similar. If you see one that looks altered, it’s probably altered.
e. As a pharmacist, before purchasing, look to be sure all products bear a common lot no and date. A particular batch/lot must have the same date. If they have varying dates, there’s malpractice somewhere.
f. Different categories of drugs have a particular shelve(active) life. Multivitamins may be around 1-2 years, while some antibiotics may be around 2-3 years. Be suspicious if it’s unnecessarily longer than normal.
3. Quality of the packet. One that is not deeply and actively involved in purchases will never be able to spot a fake product. Sometimes, the quality of the fake is so sophisticated that you may choose the fake when placed with the original e.g. fake ampicillin/cloxacillin caps of a popular brand. However, no matter how sophisticated it may be, there’s always subtle differences that may come as a result of colour difference, character of expiry date, an omitted detail etc.
4. Price. If it’s cheaper than normal, it may be fake. Be careful when buying drugs that seem to be a lot cheaper.
5. Popular, fast moving or expensive brands. Be more cautious when buying these types of products as they are more prone to faking.
6. Insist on seeing the expiry date on any counting medication. Some unprofessional people count products that is expired or transfer products on sachets to a container to be counted from.
Like I said earlier, if you don’t routinely handle products, you may not notice fake products easily. The better thing to do is to purchase your medicines from reputable pharmacies. I pity people that enter inside the market to buy medicine, and that’s not saying all of the traders there are bad.