The convener NECCI PR Roundtable 2023, Nkechi Ali-Balogun has identified communication as a strategic tool in the battle against illicit trade.
She made this statement during her welcome address at the 23rd edition, held at the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos recently.
Speaking on the theme of the event: “Fighting the Scourge of Illicit Trade In The Pharma Industry: The Role of Communication,” she stated: “I have seen people die taking fake drugs, I have seen people turning nurses overnight and patients are taken to their homes. It is on the increase. The question is, how long are we going to continue;? how long will the village man or market woman buy drugs without knowing whether it is fake or not;? how do they identify fake drugs or the implication of taking fake drugs?
The veteran PR practitioner observed the pharmaceutical industry has witnessed remarkable advancements, boasting the potential to transform lives.
Regrettably, she added the dark shadow of illicit trade threatens the very core of the industry’s noble mission, jeopardizing public health and eroding the trust fundamental to the patient industry relationship.
To her, communication plays a vital role in sharing best practices, raising awareness and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, strengthening regulatory frameworks, and providing transparency within the supply chain to track products from manufacturer to patients.
In her words, “Right from the onset, the aim of the PR Roundtable is to bring to the fore topical issues that needed communication. Information is power and without information, we can’t have knowledge and without knowledge, we can’t have understanding. The PR Roundtable interrogates topical issues, importance of communication and how it impacts on relationships, businesses and lifestyle.”
Speaking on how she has weathered the storm in the last twenty three years, she said“It’s all about passion and patriotism. Irrespective of what is happening, I love Nigeria. I know we have so much to celebrate and talk about in this country.”
In the area of challenges, she identified funding, adding, “we don’t mind partnership with the government.”
In her keynote address, Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Moji Adeyeye, noted the proliferation of sub-standard and falsified medicines pose danger to public health and economic growth.
Specifically, she said illicit sales and distribution of sub-standard and falsified medicines were threatening the attainment of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and leading to global assault on public health globally.
Adeyeye, however, said no single agency could undertake the battle alone, adding that the approach must be multi-faceted.
She further identified gaps as uncoordinated drug distribution and supply chain system; drug hawking and proliferation of street/ open drug markets; increasing use of postal/ courier services for dispatch of small parcels of sub-standard and falsified medicines; availability of advanced technologies; reduced risks of prosecution; non-deterrent laws and weak penalties; proliferation of rogue online pharmacists/ unregulated sales of medicines online; ignorance, poverty and high cost of living; scarcity of medicines and abuse of free trade zones and lawful trade facilitation mechanisms.
On what NAFDAC is doing to bridge the gaps, she listed attainment of ISO9001:2015 certification and WHO Maturity Level 3, which implies that NAFDAC has reached the level of regulatory system operating as a stable, well-functioning and integrated system for the regulation of medicines and imported vaccines in an efficient, effective and transparent manner, to achieve Universal Health Coverage by access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicine and vaccines for all Nigerians.
In his remarks, Chairman NECCI PR Roundtable 2023, Senator Daisy Danjuma noted there is need to commend Nkechi for sustaining the programme for twenty three years. She assured: “We’ll try our best to support the programme.”
She also expressed happiness with presence of the young undergraduates at the event, adding they need to be properly equipped to confront future challenges.
For the first time, the NECCI PR Roundtable Hall of Fame was instituted to recognise and celebrate corporate organisations and individuals for their outstanding contributions to the growth of the PR industry.
Stanbic-IBTC, First Bank Nigeria PLC, The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Zenith Bank, Senator Daisy Danjuma, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina and Dr. Bennedict Oramah as Great PR ambassador of the continent were awarded at the event.
Moderated by the founder Light House Network, Nkiru Olumide Ojo, other speakers at the event include, Comptroller General Nigeria Customs Service Adewole Adeniyi; CEO National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Mohammad Buba Marwa; Provost College of Pharmacy Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti Mbang Femi Oyewole; CEO Proshare Nigeria Olufemi Awoyemi; CEO Corporate Advisor Bolarinwa Onoolapo, Founder Biofem Group Olufemi Soremekun and lecturer St. Augustine University, Tanzania Dr. David Mrisho.