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Nigeria more vigilant against fake drugs


New Delhi : Two months after Nigeria seized a consignment of fake drugs made in China but carrying the “Made in India” label, an official delegation from the African country Tuesday met Indian industry here with the assurance that they were more vigilant against counterfeit medicines and open to generic pharmaceuticals.

In June, Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) announced it had detected a large consignment of anti-malarial drugs from China, which had been labelled “Made in India”, being sold in that country.

It snowballed into a diplomatic issue, with the Indian government lodging a strong protest with the Chinese authorities.

“It was an unfortunate incident, but it has opened up a lot of opportunities in fight against counterfeits, with the Indian government involved as it has interests in the issue,” NAFDAC director general Paul Ohri told reporters here.

Ohri is leading a delegation that arrived Saturday on a five-day visit to hold talks with the Indian government and visit pharmaceutical factories in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Mumbai.

He said the suspect drugs were declared counterfeit only after laboratory tests.

“The packaging was very sophisticated and on its physical scrutiny, it looked genuine. But after laboratory analysis we found there were no active ingredients. If it had remained undetected, it could have created resistant strains of malaria,” Ohri added.

The Chinese government, he noted, had reacted by asking for “more information” and “promised to conduct its own investigation”.

“We have learnt that they have identified about 50 (Chinese) companies that are involved in this syndicate,” Ohri said.

Incidentally, China and India are the top exporters of drugs to Nigeria, where foreign-made pharmaceuticals account for 60 percent of the market.

While Brand India has not taken a beating due to Nigeria’s quick action, Ohri suggested there was still the need to conduct a public information campaign about Indian products coming to Nigeria.

He also said his organisation had already taken steps to be more “vigilant” to detect counterfeit drugs at the ports of entry itself.

Ohri, who had an interaction with representatives of Indian pharma companies at the Federation of Indian Chamber for Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Tuesday, made it clear his country did not plan to define counterfeit drugs to include generics.

“Nigeria will not define counterfeit to include generics, because we know the importance of generics,” he said.

This was the assurance that the Indian government and industry had been looking for.

“We had learned that some African countries were bring law that says that if a drug is patented in the US and not in India, it will be treated as counterfeit. This (Nigerian) stand clears up the matter for us. This means they are very welcoming to generic medicines, which is our forte,” said Devendra Chaudhary, joint secretary in the department of pharmaceuticals of the chemicals ministry.

Africa accounts for 15 percent of India’s pharma exports worth $6.32 billion.