USAID re-launches $10,000 reward for whistle-blowers on fake malaria drugs

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The office of Inspector-General (OIG), of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has re-launched its reward for persons who would help it with information on stolen and falsified anti-malaria drugs and other commodities for treating or preventing the disease in the country.

The reward had earlier been offered by USAID at the launch of the campaign in the country last year to help apprehend persons involved in falsification and illicit trading in malaria drugs and commodities funded by USAID.

USAID offers rewards between $100 and $10,000 for previously unknown, usable information about theft, counterfeiting, resale, or other abuses of U.S. government-funded antimalarial commodities, Jonathan Scotfield, International Investigator for the organization said recently in Abuja at a media briefing.

The organization seeks adequate punishment for persons involved in the crimes, and would be partnering with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Scotfield stated.

“OIG started the MAD malaria campaign in 2015 to remind Nigerians of the dangers of using stolen and falsified antimalarial medications or other goods. Malaria is transmitted throughout Nigeria with an estimated 100 million malaria cases and about 300,000 deaths each year. Nigeria’s National Malaria Strategic Plan reports that malaria is the cause of 30 percent of childhood deaths, 25 percent of deaths in children under-one year, and 11 percent of maternal deaths in the country.

“The prevalence of counterfeit or substandard malaria medicines undermines worldwide attempts to control the disease. Such drugs can be ineffective in treating malaria, prolong illness, and increase the risk of severe disease or death. Stolen malaria medicines may also be transported or stored in poor conditions, leading to decay and making them ineffective in treating patients. OIG’s MAD malaria hotlines helps Nigerians make a difference in their community by fighting these life-threatening abuses.

“Any person with specific knowledge of theft or counterfeiting of antimalarial commodities in Nigeria is urged to contact the MAD malaria hotline immediately via 08099937319, 07080601872, or by emailmadmalariahotline@usaid.gov,” Scotfield, said.

He assured that information given would be treated in confidence as USAID OIG protects the identity of each complainant to the maximum extent provided by law. Reward amounts vary based on the specificity and depth of cooperation provided to OIG.

“Globally, illicit proceeds from the sale of stolen or falsified antimalarial medicine total more than $60 million a year. OIG investigates allegations of theft, diversion, and resale of U.S. government-funded antimalarial commodities worldwide, especially throughout Africa, in coordination with local law enforcement entities,” he said further.

National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr. Bala Mohammed, also at the event, said the Federal Government, through NMEP had deployed strategies to stem the effect of malaria in the country.

Mohammed, who was represented by Head, Case Management Branch, Dr. Godwin Ntadom, listed the strategies to include vector management interventions, prompt and effective case management reinforced by effective social and behavioural communication change.

He said substandard, falsified, falsely-labelled and counterfeit malaria drugs and commodities impede global efforts in the fight against malaria and as such results in treatment failure and death.

“Part of the problems we face in the fight against malaria is in the quality of medicines used in the treatment of malaria in Nigeria. The continued availability of SSFFC impedes global efforts in the fight against malaria and as such results in treatment failure and even death.

The World Health Organization, WHO, has reported that about 10 to 30 percent of medicines in developing countries are substandard and falsified, with anti-malarial medicines constituting the bulk of these. The situation in Nigeria is peculiar to the global trend because of the vast and diverse population. Pharmaceutical products are either imported or produced domestically,” he said.

He added that though government in the country had sustained the fight against poor quality and fake medicines, such efforts are mostly targeting the production and supply systems, but that little is done to educate the public and consumers on fake medicines.

 

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