By Joy Odor
The House of Representatives on Tuesday called on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and other relevant government agencies to regulate Olonline advertising and sales of drugs in Nigeria.
The House resolution was sequel to the motion of Hon. Onofiok Akpan Luke, Chairman, House Committee on Federal Judiciary.
Presenting the motion at the floor of the Green Chamber on Tuesday, Hon. Luke said given the false, exaggerated media and online advertisement of drugs, members of the public are enticed into buying the drugs ranging from dietary supplements, cholesterol-lowering medicine, analgesics, including tramadol and aspirin to Viagra and other sex enhancement drugs, some of which are unregistered and purchased without a doctor’s prescription or the advice of a pharmacist.
“Online advertising is using the internet/online platforms as a medium to deliver marketing messages to an identified and intended audience, and is designed to persuade the targeted customer to engage in a specific action including making a purchase.
“Also notes that given its expansive reach, online advertising has become increasingly important to business owners and service providers across the world because it is more cost-efficient, offering measurability and delivering unmatched speedy dissemination.
“Concerned that online vendors have capitalized on free access to the internet and social media platforms to advertise and sell unregistered and sometimes fake drugs to unsuspecting members of the public, thereby endangering their health and wellbeing,” Hon. Luke said.
He said “Aware that given the false, exaggerated media and online advertisement of drugs, members of the public are enticed into buying the drugs ranging from dietary supplements, cholesterol-lowering medicine, analgesics, including tramadol and aspirin to Viagra and other sex enhancement drugs, some of which are unregistered and purchased without a doctor’s prescription or the advice of a pharmacist.
“Also aware that the law prohibits the advertisement of drugs or related products without registration and without the advertisement having the pre-clearance and approval of a relevant government agency.
“Further aware that the law requires that the advertisement of any drug or related product be accurate, complete, clear, and designed to promote credibility and trust by the general public and health practitioners, and that drug products, particularly drugs that may lead to death or severe injury, must have a special safety warning information displayed within a box in the advertisement.
“Worried that some of the drugs are sold without an indication or warning of the side effects, and members of the public who purchased them have complained of developing symptoms of vomiting, stooling, body weakness, severe body pains, swelling, shortness of breath, fainting, erectile dysfunction among other things, necessitating them to seek medical attention in hospitals,
“Also worried that most drugs and related products advertised online do not meet the requirements and standards set by the law and the non-compliance thereof exposes the public to grave health risk and danger.
“Cognizant that drug products should not state or imply in absolute terms or by quotations taken out of context that any drug product is safe or has guaranteed efficacy or special status, and that any advertisement that portrays a drug product as fast, immediate, instant, or rapid in action on the description must substantiate using studies based on the rate of absorption of the drug product.”
Following Luke’s motion, the resolved caller on the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) to liaise with online advertising companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to effectively monitor, control, and enforce advertising standards against online drug advertisers and vendors.
The Green Chamber also called on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to arrest and prosecute unlawful online advertisers of drugs, and enlighten the public against the dangers of purchasing unregistered and non-prescribed drugs online.
The House urged the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria to sanction and prosecute individuals engaging in the sales and promotion of medicines online without the requisite authorization in line with the law establishing the Council;
It also urged the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to take necessary action towards protecting consumers of online drugs;
The House of Representatives mandated its Committees on Healthcare Services and Information Technology to ensure compliance.