Thursday, June 20, 2019
Harrisburg, PA, USA

Continued from Part 2

Regimented and monitored drug prescription process in advanced nations helps save lives:

The strictly regimented drug prescription process, in the United States, helps to save lives. One cannot just walk into a pharmacy and purchase a drug. To get prescription drugs, one first has to see the doctor for examination. After diagnosis, the doctor writes drug prescription for the patient. A registered pharmacy dispenses the drugs. Medications must be genuine and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)approved. Possible side effects and what to do are disclosed to the patient. The doctor is able to monitor the drugs a patient takes to prevent drug interactions and overdose.

Self-medicating is a problem in Nigeria

The opposite is true in Nigeria where self-medication is the norm. When people feel sick, they assume they know what ails them. They easily walk into a pharmacy, buy any medication and commence a treatment course. Many a time, the ailment they are suspecting may not be what they are suffering from. So while they treat a phantom ailment, the real ailment is lurking in their body, worsening by the day, sometimes becoming debilitating or leading to death. At times, people simultaneously ingest multiple drugs, ignorant of the drug interactions. We read about sudden deaths that occur after the ingestion of multiple drugs. Furthermore, when patients self-medicate, they sometimes take more than the recommended dose. They do not understand that certain medications, taken at certain doses, actually become poison!

In advanced nations, drug side effects are monitored to prevent organ damage:

People with certain diseases have to take powerful medications. Some of the medications that treat diseases like high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, also have side effects that include gradual kidney and liver damage. The drugs, therefore, need to be taken under the close supervision of a doctor. Continual blood tests are run to ensure that the kidneys and liver are not being adversely affected. Here in the United States, I have heard people say that through blood tests, their doctors found out that a drug they were taking was affecting their kidney or liver function. As a result, they had to change the drug or lower the dose. Nigerians take the same powerful drug types too! The difference is that sometimes it is through self-diagnosis and self- medication. They are unaware of the side effects and have no doctor to monitor side effects on vital organs. What results is a case of “treating one ailment” but gradually damaging an organ in the body.

Some chemists don’t store medications properly, so efficacy is reduced:

Some chemists do not even obey practice ethics like storing medications at prescribed temperatures. I have been inside a chemist store in Nigeria where the room temperature was more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit! Most drugs are supposed to be stored at much lower temperatures. Yet people go into such chemists and buy medication without knowing if it still works. Do not go to such chemists.

Fake and adulterated drugs are everywhere in Nigeria

In the United States for example, before any drug is released to the public for consumption, rigorous clinical testing and trials take place. During this period, the drug is administered on human volunteers. As the testing takes place, results are noted, including any adverse reactions on the volunteers or even death. Only after a new drug has been tested exhaustively, its efficacy certified and assurance obtained that it does not contain dangerous, fake or adulterated ingredients or chemicals, is it released to the public for use by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Even after the release of a drug to the public for consumption, FDA continues to monitor complaints from users. If at any time adverse effects, including death, are reported, the drug is pulled from the market on grounds of public safety. This and other safeguards reduce adverse reactions and deaths from new drugs.

Before the advent of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria, anyone could introduce a new drug into the market. Back in the early 70s, someone introduced a local medication called "Ikampower" to the market. In the bus, in the marketplace, along the streets, you would hear promotional jingles extolling the virtues of Ikampower. It was touted as a ‘cure all’ medication. People bought and ingested it in droves.

How was it possible that this one drug took care of all types of ailments? It later went away but not before some started complaining about serious adverse effects after ingestion. Nigeria later became a dumping ground for untested drugs from other nations. The advent of NAFDAC, under the Late Dr Dora Akunyili, seemed to bring relief. She fought the drug racketeers almost to a standstill. NAFDAC became Nigeria’s saving grace. New drugs to the market were vetted. Fake and adulterated medicines were destroyed or burnt in the open.

Since Dora Akunyili’s removal from her position and her death, it seems like Nigeria has gone back to the old days. Social media continue to expose backyard shacks were people, without any training, manufacture and distribute drugs. Drugs that do not have the requisite ingredients to make them efficacious and prepared under unhygienic environment, are sold to the public. Who knows how many Nigerians die from ingesting these medications? Shine your eyes Nigeria! Go to genuine, certified chemists for your medications.

Continued from Part 2

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War