Experts have alleged that Nigeria loses an estimated sum of N200 billion annually to counterfeit medicines, a sum that excludes what it loses to substandard drugs, adding that the proliferation of fake and counterfeit medicine has detrimental effects on the economy and on society.
This was part of the submissions by a panel of experts at a media parley on intellectual property (IP) infringement in the pharmaceutical sector organised by the American Business Council and some partners.
According to the panel, a market survey by Pfizer revealed that 40 per cent of Pfizer medicines in Nigeria are sourced from illicit parallel importation (a form of counterfeiting) while a 2011 World Health Organisation study found that about 64 per cent of anti-malarial drugs in Nigeria were fake, adding that the counterfeit and substandard drug distribution network is so expansive that over 50 per cent of drugs, food and drinks sold in open markets are counterfeit.
“These markets serve most Nigerians, whose low disposable income pushes safer pharmacies and in turn drugs, out of reach. Number of deaths attributable to the consumption of fake medicine could fall in the ten to hundreds of thousands. Over the years, Nigeria has become a target destination and transit route for counterfeit and pirated goods.
“Foreign and local traders flood the market with cheap sub-standard fakes while local manufacturers illegally imitate products of established brands due to the informal structure of the economy, corruption, outdated legislation, weak policy and enforcement mechanisms and lack of proper awareness on the dangers of consuming substandard and counterfeit products,” the panel stated.
Speaking on the role of media on issues around IP infringement in pharmaceutical space, one of the panelists, Chukwuma Muanya, an Assistant Editor with Guardian Newspapers pointed out that Nigeria has emerged as a hotspot for the manufacture and trade of fake drugs which has been attributed to problematic system and porous borders, weak pharmaceutical regulation as well as corrupt officials by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
The assertion of the panel is supported by a paper produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) titled “Impact of Intellectual Property Infringement on Businesses and the Nigeria Economy which stated that data has shown a strong correlation between strong intellectual property rights and economic development.
The PWC report released on July 15, 2015 during the Anadach workshop titled ‘The Dynamic Dole of Intellectual Property in Promoting Innovation and Economic Development in Emerging Markets’ in Lagos, which received valuable input from ICC Nigeria and key local partners stated that strong IP rights create an enabling environment for the innovation necessary for economic stimulation.
Nigeria is described as home to one of the weakest intellectual property protection regimes, which hampers the growth prospects of an already weak economy. They stated that IP violation hinders economic growth by discouraging investment, decreasing innovation, discouraging research and development, diminishing financial benefits from creation, and may pose harm to consumers.
“Intellectual Property infringement has been detrimental to the Nigerian economy in many ways. It has kept Nigeria from attaining its full economic potential and has put lives at risk. To tackle the national IP infringement, the government should address corruption and inadequate funding, strengthen IP legislation, and foster collaboration among government agencies. Further, the government should launch an awareness campaign to educate the public on the dangers of IP infringement to society and their role in the fight against IP infringement,” it said.
The International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) in a publication through the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) on Promoting and Protecting Intellectual Property in Nigeria revealed that Nigeria has increasingly become a target destination and significant transit route for counterfeit and pirated products and calls for more government attention to this at the national, state and local levels.
The panel emphasised that Nigeria needs to develop a national policy on IP as a matter of urgency, adding that no nation can consciously and seamlessly develop its IP without first setting up and vigorously propagating a National Policy Framework that will spell out in clear terms the overall IP goal of the nation and launch time-based policy thrusts with short, medium and long term development goals.
It called for a holistic reform of the country’s IP sector, vigorous public awareness campaigns, automation of the systems in all IP registration offices and harmonization with the platforms of all regulatory bodies for trade, business and investments in Nigeria among others.
Other members of the panel includes Michael Ubaka, a senior lecturer and supply chain consultant, Out Ukoyen a brand protection expert and Isioma Idigbe of PUNUKA Attorneys and solicitors as moderator.
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