A visit to a popular general hospital in Lagos (Mainland) revealed that, unfortunately, drug hawkers’ are everywhere; in the markets, streets, commercial buses and motor parks in the country. The menace of these hawkers ranges from selling expired, substandard, and adulterated drugs. They ‘prescribe’ drugs from analgesics, antibiotics, metronidazole and even Sildenafil to Nigerians. Most worrisome, are the ones that happens in government hospital environment.
Pharmaceutical products should be handled only by pharmacists and some medical personnel for common sense reasons. Drugs are meant to be stored at a certain temperature and in a dry place, but drug hawkers expose these drugs to hot temperatures in the course of hawking, thereby losing their quality and efficacy. Some of the drugs also expire earlier than the recommended date, making them dangerous when administered. There is also the issue of fake or relabeled expiry dates.
Medical professionals have explained that drugs sold through unregistered outlets by non-pharmaceutical professionals have been linked to terrible health conditions, including failure of such organs as kidney, liver, and lungs. Oftentimes, they even lead to death due to wrong medications, dosages, as well as consumption of expired, falsified, and substandard medicines by unsuspecting consumers.
People who have no business handling drugs are seen with drugs. But who is to be blamed? Is it the lack of healthcare policy regulations? The fact that these hawkers are armed with the knowledge that little can be done to them by the regulatory bodies has embolden and empower them. It must be noted that the regulatory bodies are powerless because of our archaic laws and the bureaucracy of our system. It is obvious that regulatory bodies particularly at state and local government level are like a toothless bull dog, lacking in ability to enforce relevant laws to rid society of drug hawkers.
We might not want to acknowledge it but the lack of health education has led people to seek remedy from traditional healers and drug hawkers. It is no wonder that substance and drug abuse is rampant in Nigeria as a result of easy access to these drugs.
What then are the solutions? There now arise a need to enlighten our people more on the dangers of these drugs and concoctions, and the need for people to develop better health seeking behaviours like presenting early to hospital when they are sick, having regular medical check-ups, regular antenatal visits by pregnant women and prompt immunization of children. Activities of traditional healers must be checked, and all drug hawking should be banned.
The government, professional bodies and all members of the society should consider it their duties to protect people from untimely deaths and trauma inflicted on them by the menace of drug hawkers and unauthorised drug sellers.