Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lessons from Nigeria

Did you ever pick up a prescription and wonder if your pharmacy received a valid pedigree, imported drugs from outside the country, or dispensed an outright counterfeit to you? You and I have no way to know if our pharmacy is behaving ethically, even in a world of self-authenticating e-pedigree.

Well, just be glad you don’t live in Nigeria. Dora Akunyili, the head of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), estimated that 41% (!) of drugs in her country were fake or sub-standard in 2001. Today, the national average is down to a still-troubling 15%. (See Officials boost fight against counterfeit drugs for more background.)

In response, Pfizer (PFE) has just launched an intriguing pharmacy-level anti-counterfeiting initiative in Nigeria. As described in Pfizer Launches Friendly Pharmacy Initiative, the program provides disease awareness materials, training, and testing materials to pharmacists. But most interesting to me is the fact that the Pfizer-Friendly designation will signal the availability of genuine Pfizer products.

Pfizer’s Marketing Director made the connection to counterfeits directly, saying: “We want to have strong allies who will say no to clones, no to parallel imports, no to fakes or counterfeits. We want to create strong and effective disease awareness amongst our colleagues in Pharmacy practice and the patients down the streets in a language they understand.

Naturally, any potential problems with counterfeit drugs in the U.S. pale in comparison with the Nigerian situation. Yet the Nigerian program makes me wonder:

How could drug makers partner with dispensing pharmacies in the U.S. to help consumers identify and validate legitimate pharmacies that practice “safe sourcing?”

What do you think? Which elements, if any, of the Nigerian program can be adapted to the U.S.?

1 comment:

  1. Adam, awesome. There is such capability now. A 2-D barcode that is read by the pharmacy and validated through a central clearing house. Sounds too complicated, 2 years ago a company was touting just this idea and looking for companies to participate. I worked for one of those which turned it down. We are just one Congressional action away from falling down the same rabbit hole as Nigeria. Wholesalers already have foreign divisions that have to be chomping at the bit to import to the US!

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the call last week after the article came out.