Why manufacturers of poor-quality maternal medicines should be sanctioned

Deaths from preventable diseases linked to pregnancy and childbirth are very high in Nigeria.

Indeed statistics released by Health Watch Nigeria, a health communication and advocacy organisation, showed that daily, about  145 women, between the ages of 15 and 45 years die from preventable cases linked to pregnancy and childbirth.

Stakeholders in the public and private health sectors, also stressed that the country should fight the high maternal mortality by improving quality of care.

They also said that manufacturers and distributors of poor-quality maternal medicines should be sanctioned.

The stakeholders said that though sanctions are already in place, but the perpetrators are not deterred.

They advocated stiffer penalties for manufacturers and distributors of poor-quality maternal medicines in the country.

The stakeholders spoke recently in Abuja at a programme on leveraging Public-Private Partnerships to Improve Access to Quality Maternal Medicines, organised by Nigeria Health Watch.

Dr Kayode Afolabi, the Head, Reproductive Health Division, Federal Ministry of Health, said that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), should continue its work as the main regulatory agency.

He said: “We are all familiar with the work of NAFDAC as the regulatory agency in this regard and what we should do is to further strengthen NAFDAC.

“This will enable NAFDAC to ensure such substandard products are not allowed into the country and then we need to look at the supply chain process.

“Particularly those maternal health products that need to be stored with certain conditions of temperature.

“Can we maintain the cold chain and if there are gaps, how do we address the gap, should be our priority,’’ he said.

Dr Kay Adesola, President, Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners (ANPMP), said good regulatory mechanisms with penalties should be put in place to curb the circulation of substandard medicines.

“We all must take the issue of access to quality medicines as our businesses since no one is exempted from health concerns.

‘Good mechanisms in form of regulatory policies with effective implementations.

“These measures must, however, not be seen taking the place of appropriate penalties to deter the die-hards importing these substandard drugs just for monetary gain.

“In some climes, some similar culprits are made to face stiff penalties such as death sentence or life jail.

“Apply penalties and see the mileage we will achieve in making maternal medicines safer and more lives saved,“ he said.

On his part, Prof. Chimezie Anyakora, Chief Executive Officer, Bloom Public Health, in a panel discussion gave insight into the critical role of supply chain management in ensuring the quality of maternal medicines in the country.

He said that maternal medicine quality is determined by factors including manufacturing, supply, storage and distribution of these medicines.

Anyakora stated that concerted efforts and strategic partnership among stakeholders were essential to build capacity in supply chain management in order to ensure quality medicines for the end users.

He also highlighted the role Bloom Public Health and its partners, including DrugStoc, were playing in ensuring proper management of the supply chain from manufacturers to end users.

He added that the distributions were through various projects like: the Drug Revolving Fund Project in Ebonyi to ensure sustainable availability and access to safe and quality drugs.

In her presentation, Dr Chioma Ejekam, Consultant Public Health Physician, said that all women needed access to high quality care in pregnancy and during childbirth.

She explained that most maternal deaths were preventable as the healthcare solutions to prevent or manage complications were well-known.

Ejekam, however, said the issue of quality around these maternal medicines had become a global concern as substandard or falsified (SF) medical products had long been acknowledged as a threat to individual and public health.

She said that penalties should be melted out on those manufacturers and distributors of such falsified or substandard maternal products.

Mr Frank Muonemeh, Executive Secretary, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), said everyone must be involved in the fight against substandard medicines.

According to him, unless the people are in the driver’s seat, from production to the last distribution point, substandard medicines will continue to be in circulation.

He, therefore, called for penalties against producers and manufacturers of falsified medicines.

Dr Chibuzo Opara, Chief Executive Officer of DrugStoc, said some of the key things his organisation was trying to solve was the problem related to supply chain financing and healthcare commodities security.

He said that the country needed to improve its cold chain infrastructure for better health services.

He said that, good investment, power supply and transportation could enhance the quality of the cold chain.

On her part, Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, the Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, said there should be stronger accountability to reinforce sanctions for substandard medicines.

She advised that policy makers, stakeholders and health workers needed to work together to improve pharmaco-vigilance, since it impacts on the quality of care they deliver.

“There is a need for a stronger reporting system and cross collaboration to detect falsified medicines and prevent them from getting to the bedside of a mother,” she said.

Ms Azuka Okeke, Chief Executive Office, Africa Resource Centre for Excellence in Supply Chain Management, said the country needed to leverage the PMG-MAN for better medicines.

She said this was necessary as they provide an organised structure for local manufacturers and ensure the production of quality and affordable medicines.

“You cannot guarantee the quality of products if you don’t know the source.

“To achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), we must engage local manufacturers and associations in order to guarantee quality and accountability,” she said. 

By Abiemwense Moru, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

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