Ondo deploys Truscan to eliminate fake medicines from health facilities
The Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju, in this interview with OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE in Akure, sheds more light on the importance of the ultramodern scientific device, Tuscan, for the numerous health facilities across the state. Excerpts:
WHAT is the essence of the multi-million-naira Truscan machine?
Basically, the Truscan is a device for us to detect fake and adulterated drugs over the counter. Let me tell you something, all the robust efforts of this administration and the caring heart government to ensure that our people are healthy can just be in vain if this Truscan was not introduced.
We are the first to have it in the country as state. The National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) bought one at the headquarters, but we are the first state to have it, some states said they have it; I don’t know: all I know is that Ondo State purchased and made first use of it among the 36 states of the federation.
The infrastructure, the equipment, the personnel that are well trained might be in vain if at the point of prescription and what they buy and consume; they have taken just mere chalk, placebo or ordinary water.
In that wise that we feel to truly complement all our investment in the health sector, there is need to ensure that the drugs we consume is of high quality and potent.
So, this true drug scan was procured with the intention that we will be screening drugs; one, at our central medical store as they are being supplied.
Two, at our hospitals after they are transported to the various hospitals, three and of course, for some who will get their drugs procured outside.
The pharmacies outside the hospital or outside government, they need to be properly screened. And even donated drugs by Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other partners truly must get them screened.
Enforcing this new initiative, how do you get the workforce?
We have the state task force, which is set up in this ministry and that comprises of the ministry staff; headed by me as the chairman, the department of pharmaceutical services, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), NAFDAC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), police and other members.
We go all out in our monitoring and of course, the first monitoring we did, because we started from the store in our State Specialist Hospital. It was quite revealing; we looked at some commonly used drugs: anti-malaria, analgesic and antibiotic.
There was a patent store where we found they were selling drugs they were not supposed to sell and those fake ones.
And that day we met about six people willing to buy drugs and these were ill people, just imagine the implication of that. They take a drug they expected to work for them and it did not work, first and foremost, they will think the diagnosis is not right or begin to think otherwise; even imagine that somebody was responsible for that act: the spiritual undertone.
This impoverish our people the more because the little and lean resources is not being expended on fake drugs and being expended in faith-based homes or other places to seek spiritual healing for what should have been cured or remedied.
All of these are things that we have looked at, and as government, introduced the Truscan that is screening and ensuring that what our people consumed are of the highest quality.
There are 18 LGAs in the state, how does the crusade spread to the rural areas?
Education is going on; we have created awareness and jingles on radio and other social media, but what is more is to see those patent stores, Patent Medicine Vendors (PMB) sealed off to ensure that they don’t continue to constitute menace to our people.
Of course, we had a meeting with them too; some of them are still faking. We are still going to meet with them as a body to let them know their limits. Most of these people are not registered; the ones that are registered have criteria that must be fulfilled before they can dispense drugs.
But most of those we are talking about are not duly registered and so tracking them becomes very difficult. What we are doing is, first and foremost, when we meet with them, we ensure all of them are registered. It is not going to be limited to the urban area, we are moving to the rural area even across the riverine communities. All of these places are where we want to go.
Does the ministry partner with other government agencies?
NAFDAC is part of the task force, it provides us with the formula which we input on our Truscan to be able detect the substandard drugs. The agency has the right composition of each drug.
The formula, when given to us, is programmed on our device so that when we scan the drug, we will be able to check and be sure the true components are there. When they are not there, it signals error and if they are there, it tells you it is okay and suitable for consumption.
Our Truscan is largely complementary to the scratch card initiative of NAFDAC. If any fake drug is detected through the scratch card, the customer can only work away from the patent store, but our task force discovers such fake drug and close down the store.
We pack those drugs to the laboratory to examine to ensure that they are really fake, so that NAFDAC can contact the manufacturer and enforce the appropriate sanction as spelt out by the law.
They are liable and culpable; they will be prosecuted, the course is suicidal. It is nothing but a crime and is charged for manslaughter. They know that it is fake and they sell it: it is an attempt to kill people.
How do you hatch the operation on the fake dealers?
This is the responsibility of NAFDAC, they take it up from there; they seal the shop and evacuate all the drugs. As government, we are just trying to ensure that there are original drugs in circulation and safety in what the people consume.
What measures do the state put in place to subsidize drug prices to stem fake patronage by the people?
First and foremost, we procure drugs from prime vendors in our drug procurement system and the ones we sent to our hospitals. Now, there is a partnership between the state and the pharmacists: the Sunshine Copharm. Sunshine Copharm is the umbrella body for all pharmaceutical stores we have in the state. They are responsible for anyone that assesses fake or anything that is substandard. They talk to themselves; there is a partnership. Even if we want to buy from those ones, we buy through them, so that we don’t leave them out, we buy through the Sunshine Copharm that will pick amongst them.
They have been rotating it so that everybody eventually benefits, and that way we know and assured of the drugs that they bring.
They are responsible because if they bring any funny drug, we hold them liable and can track it out through the supply chains. Those are the check and balances that are put in place apart from the Truscan machine.
Above all, we are going eventually to mega drug store where all drugs will be such that even the small pharmacies will buy from us. That is on the long run so that we can be on the same page.
Buying directly from the manufacturer, meaning that the cost will be much cheaper because we are buying in bulk unlike those that will be buying in bit. When they supply the shops, they add the cost of transportation and other logistics. Our prime vendors make price go down a little.
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