By Kingsley Igbokwe
As a public analyst keeping tab on current affairs particularly in the Health Sector, I was shocked when I read a tribute written by one Lorretta Epuechi, entitled ‘Dora Akunyili: A woman of courage’. There was nothing wrong in paying tribute to a woman who has rendered meritorious service to the nation. But Lorretta showed strands of ignorance and her depth of misinformation on the chronicle of events at NAFDAC particularly as it pertains to the introduction of the Truscan and the Short Message Service (the GSM Scratch and Text Service) in the fight against counterfeit drugs. It is an urgent matter of concern that Epuechi has breached the tenets of factual and objective writing by propagating falsehood and misinformation without adequate research and facts finding.
Going down memory lane, I remember vividly that shortly after the current Director-General, Dr. Paul Orhii assumed office in 2009, he introduced the Truscan and the Short Message Service along many other cutting-edge technologies such as the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), the Black Eye, the Mini lab and the recently introduced mobile water technology that checks the quality of water on the spot. These are just to mention a few of the innovative technologies introduced by Dr. Orhii in winning the war against drug counterfeting.
There is a religious saying that a labourer is worthy of his reward. And another saying that honour is given to whom honour is due. No doubt the Amazon, late Prof. Dora Akunyili served NAFDAC in the best of her capacity and made NAFDAC a household name with constant and tireless service to curb the menace of drug counterfeiting and other unwholesome regulated products. While her successor, Dr. Paul Orhii has also not rested on his oars. He has worked doggedly and relentlessly to achieve the same goal and took NAFDAC to greater height. He may not have adopted the same strategies as his predecessor but he has introduced a more 21st century compliant strategy, which is the use of cutting-edge technologies to detect counterfeit drugs, alongside the usual traditional methods of fighting drug counterfeiting.
I remember that in 2009 Dr. Paul Orhii assumed duty; few months later he introduced and launched the Truscan device in the presence of the Minister of Health, Prof Christian Chukwu with other government dignatories and stakeholders. If Nigerians would recall prior to 2009 when Dr. Orhii assumed duty as NAFDAC Boss, nobody ever heard or saw a handheld device such as the Truscan and MAS (Mobile Authentication Service) deployed to detect counterfeit medicines on the spot.
With Dr. Orhii, the trend has changed, with the introduction of cutting-edge technologies in the fight against drug counterfeiting which has earned him both international and local awards, honours and recognitions. Once again Nigerians can justify their big brother role to Africa, as countries such as Kenyan, Seirra Leone, Uganda and Cameroun have come to learn from Nigeria and take a clue on how NAFDAC is winning her war against drug counterfeiting under the able leadership of Dr. Orhii with the use of Truscan.
NAFDAC under Orhii was the first regulatory Agency to deploy the use of Truscan to detect counterfeit drugs. In recognition of Dr. Orhii’s efforts in the use of the cutting- edge technologies to fight the incidence of counterfeiting, Dr. Orhii was invited by the US Council of Foreign Relations more than four times between 2010 and 2013 to speak on how NAFDAC is winning the war against drug counterfeiting with the use of Truscan and other cutting-edge technologies. Interestingly, part of the DG’s lecture was used by the Council of Foreign Relations in its report to President Obama which also formed part of the US President’s submission at the G8 summit held in 2012. Also in 2013, the US Senate of the State of Georgia passed a resolution commending Dr. Orhii for his outstanding achievements in the use of cutting-edge technologies to fight drug counterfeiting. NAFDAC’s success under the able leadership of Dr. Orhii in the fight against drug counterfeiting was also recognized by the Director- General of World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan who revealed that there is a remarkable reduction in the incidence of counterfeit malaria medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria. Impressed with Dr. Orhii’s performance, President Goodluck Jonathan conferred on him the national honor of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2012.
Dr. Orhii’s quest to eradicate drug counterfeiting and his introduction of the Truscan, MAS and other cutting-edge technologies has proved effective in the fight against counterfeit drugs globally and has made Dr. Orhii the global leader and champion of the fight against drug counterfeiting.
It was in recognition of this superlative performance that Dr. Paul Orhii was appointed first chair of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force known as New State Mechanism on Spurious, Substandard, Falsely-labelled, Falsified Counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products. Dr. Orhii has received over 50 national and international awards for his ground breaking efforts in the introduction of anti-counterfeiting cutting edge technologies.
Kingsley Igbokwe resides in Abuja.