DRUG dealers at the popular Head Bridge market in the commercial city of Onitsha have become jittery following the commencement of the federal government’s ban on open drug markets which took effect from July 1, 2015 across the country.
The permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute had announced last week that regulatory agencies, including the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, PCN, and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, would commence the enforcement exercise on that date.
Apparently unsure of their fate, drug traders in Onitsha have become very apprehensive and are suspicious of unknown faces entering the market.
As one trader put it, “these days we only sell drugs to only known customers until the situation becomes clearer,” adding that they want to be sure of the nature of the enforcement.
Before the expiration of the deadline, Onitsha Mega Drug Distribution Center was awaiting commissioning.
According to Awute, drug distribution system of the country has remained uncoordinated, chaotic and had resulted in the circulation of fake, adulterated, substandard and counterfeit drugs in the country, arguing that the situation posed a very big challenge to the pharmaceutical sector in particular and the federal government in general, considering the negative impact the situation had on the health care delivery system in the country.
He explained that it was to address the ugly situation that informed the decision of the federal government to set up the presidential committee on pharmaceutical sector reform, which was charged with the responsibility of developing a strategy towards institutionalization of a well –organized drug distribution system in Nigeria.
The strategy adopted by the committee, Awute said, included the development of National Drug Distribution Guidelines, NDDG, which was launched by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2012.
The ministry also issued a deadline for the establishment of State Drug Distribution Centers, SDDC, by the state governments, while that of mega drug distribution centers by the private sector was declared on June 30, 2014.
Before July 1, 2015, only Jigawa, Niger and Ekiti states had established their SDDCs and commenced implementation of the guidelines, while Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Anambra had their SDDCs inspected by the PCN and were ready to take off.
Akwa Ibom and Lagos states were said to be developing structures for their SDDCs as a sign of their willingness to comply.