Years back, when I was still nursing my son, I made it a point of duty to always buy his medicines at an registered pharmacy; cough syrups, multivitamins, pain relief syrups et al. Never mind the fact that there are many registered pharmacies that sell fake drugs.
I just believed that as a mother, my first duty was to ensure my son was provided the right medical aid. The thought of using my money to buy fake drugs and giving to my child filled me with dread.
The second thing I always did was to first take the drug myself and administer to him after a few hours. That way, I figured, I would be able to tell if the drug was fake and if it had any side effects that a baby of six months would be unable to describe to its mother, particularly if the pain kicked in.
Now, at that time, when my son was also growing and teething, I bought Ashthon and Parsons Teething powder; very common in those days for teething babies. I bought it on my way from work and forgot to taste it. I’m not sure why I didn’t taste it before administering to my son that day, perhaps in part because the old pack had long been exhausted and I forgot to buy a replacement immediately and so by the time I got round to buying another, my son was biting into everything in sight to scrub his itchy gums.
So I hurried to the usual registered pharmacy around my office area and got the teething powder. As soon as I got home later that day, I emptied one fold of power into his mouth. He chewed with his toothless gum and spat it out!
Nah, mama won’t have that, so I opened another wrap and force-fed him – the way our mothers did in the olden days.
Throughout that evening, I observed my baby scrubbing at his gum with his chubby fingers, he flung away the gum scrubber I gave to him (you know those water filled soft rubber things that babies bite at when they are teething) and was just clawing at his gums.
Somehow, I didn’t realise something was wrong maybe because I was busy cooking and doing laundry, generally being busy until the following day, when after administering another slip of teething powder, I saw my baby’s reaction and I froze.
This teething powder is fake!
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Only then did I taste it. It tasted nothing like the regular Ashton and Parsons teething powder! It was bitter and clung to the palate.
I was incensed!
I cursed, I shrieked like a wounded lioness, I was mad as hell!
Who will poison even babies for profit!
Apparently, we still have them in our midst.
All this memory came flooding back following the news of that young man, Eric Arubayi the gospel singer who passed away over the weekend. He was said to have died as a result of ingesting fake antimalarial drugs; his liver collapsed as a result and he died.
What a waste of life!
Recall years back, in 2008, I think, when a teething medicine, My Pikin sent over 10 babies to an early grave! It was found to be tainted with diethylene glycol, a chemical that causes damage to the heart, kidneys and nervous system. At the end of the day, it was discovered that more than a 100 babies had been given the drug and many were left with dire complications afterwards!
Can you imagine the pain the babies must have gone through before they finally died?
Can you imagine the pain, the hundreds of Eric Arubayis must have gone through after ingesting fake drugs before they died!
Where are our fiery NAFDAC officials here?
Why isn’t the name of the fake drug announced to warn others off it
Oh, by the way. I went back to the pharmacy that sold me the fake teething powder. Turned out they were completely oblivious of the fake drug they were selling…how that was possible beats me.
Anyway, they removed all the Ashthon and Parsons teething powder from their shelf and promised to look into their supply chain and then they gave me a refund.
What if that powder had done my son harm? Would the refund suffice?
What of the many families who’d lost loved ones to fake drugs? What refund would they get?
Who will wipe their tears and go after the people who specialise in fake drugs?
Who will create the awareness and hope that many more people will not be victims of fake malarial drugs seeing that malaria is so prevalent in this part of the world!
Who will stand for us?
Peju Akande is the managing editor of Sabi News, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.