Fraud, Corruption and Counterfeits in the Nigerian Pharmaceutical Industry.

  • Adebowale Richard Obe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The production and trade of counterfeit drugs is a global problem that affects both developed and developing countries. However, the illicit business is particularly widespread in Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries. Current crime trends across the globe clearly indicate that no crime is as potentially dangerous as pharmaceutical product counterfeiting because it is a deliberate act with the full intention to deceive others into buying and to consume fake drugs that may lead to serious health complications and death. For instance, counterfeit and substandard drugs have been identified as one of the major obstacles to quality healthcare delivery across the globe, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria. Similarly, counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products has been identified as a very complex crime that is very difficult to tackle in any society, particularly in a corrupt society like Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries. Most research studies that have been conducted over the years on drug counterfeiting have highlighted weak legislation, greed, the high cost of genuine drugs, and corruption as the primary reasons for the continued widespread of counterfeit medicines in developing countries. Other studies have focused mainly on the economic and health consequences of counterfeit and fake medicines. However, there has been limited research on the demand side and public perception toward counterfeit medicines in developing countries like Nigeria where more than 70% of the citizens are living below the United Nation poverty line index.
Over the years, medicines counterfeiting has grown to become a critical and deep-rooted national problem confronting Nigeria and other developing countries due to persistent policy failures and prolonged institutional incapacity. The alarming rate of the counterfeit drugs problem in Nigeria is compounded by the difficult economic condition in the country, affecting most Nigerians, particularly poor people. In developed countries like the United Kingdom for instance, the probability or the fear that the citizens may be buying counterfeit or substandard drugs from the drug shelves is very slim due to the effective policing and regulatory system put in place by the government. Regrettably, the reverse is the case in Nigeria and some other sub-Saharan African countries. The present situation is terrifying to the extent that no one in the country is immune to the problem of counterfeit drugs. Even the genuine and expensive medicines that can only be afforded by the rich in the country have been counterfeited by criminals and are widely distributed in the Nigerian pharmaceutical market to the extent that it is difficult to differentiate between original and counterfeit drugs. Given this, this research study provides insights into the factors influencing public perceptions and attitudes toward counterfeit products, particularly counterfeit medicines in Nigeria.
Findings from this study suggest that the loopholes created by weak enforcement and policing are some of the weak links being exploited by criminals to penetrate the pharmaceutical products supply chain with counterfeit drugs. In addition, finding also revealed that a direct relationship exists between perceived opportunity created by weak regulations, enforcement, and policing and the growing rate of fraudulent medicine falsification practices in the Nigerian pharmaceutical market. Further findings also revealed that the criminal acts of drug counterfeiting are committed mainly by people in privileged positions or those connected to those in privileged positions in the country. Despite the existence of many anti-drug counterfeiting laws in the country, available evidence clearly shows that criminals engaging in the drug counterfeiting business often use their privileged positions to commit this crime and as well evade arrest and prosecution. Therefore, developing effective strategies to block the loopholes will negatively impact the activities of the fraudulent drug counterfeiters in Nigeria and within the West Africa sub-region.
Therefore, this research study concludes that combating counterfeit and fake drugs is a multi- sectional task that requires a prolonged approach involving all stakeholders to actively work together to achieve success in the fight against the menace. Given this, combating the activities of criminals engaging in drug counterfeiting trade in the West African sub-region requires effective cooperation and collaboration of the government of the countries in this region through the provision of basic infrastructures, investment in modern counterfeit drugs detecting technologies, development of the right policing strategy to address the problem of cross-border smuggling of counterfeit drugs, and strong and effective punitive measures that will serve as deterrent. Finally, preventing the problem of drug counterfeiting trade is a primary duty of every responsible government in order to save lives. In view of this, there is an urgent need for all stakeholders and the policymakers in the pharmaceutical industry in these countries to work together and develop the right strategies that will rid the medicine supply chain system in the region of counterfeit drug criminals.
Date of Award12 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMark Button (Supervisor) & Branislav Hock (Supervisor)

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