The counterfeit pharmaceutical industry is thriving in West Africa, with law enforcement agencies battling to crackdown on foreign-linked criminal syndicates, writes Emma Hooper.
It is rare to have a conversation in Nigeria about the problem of falsified medicine without a mention of the My Pikin syrup tragedy.
In 2009, 84 children were killed by a batch of teething syrup that contained diethylene glycol, an industrial solvent and ingredient found in antifreeze and brake fluid. Two employees from the company which made the syrup were found guilty by a court.
The case was significant as convictions for manufacturing or selling falsified medicines remain uncommon in Nigeria.
“That’s the one that got into the papers,” Dr Alero Roberts said, adding: “We’ve had numerous issues.”
Dr Roberts, a senior lecturer at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, is lucky that the hospital has a robust drug procurement system and they do not have problems with falsified medicines, although they do see patients who have encountered bad drugs.