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Fake Drugs: Health, Wealth and Regulation in Nigeria

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JournalReview of African Political Economy
DateAccepted/In press - 26 Jul 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 20 Dec 2018
Number of pages17
Early online date20/12/18
Original languageEnglish


In recent years, international organisations have warned of the lethal trade in fake drugs particularly in Africa. This article assesses how and why fake pharmaceuticals have become a problem in Nigeria and how successful the state has been at regulating it, based on archival, official and interview data. While we show that the early roots of this trade can be found in colonial times, its expansion and growing policy concern were driven by crises in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare system in the 1980s. In contrast to dominant explanations, we argue that the rise of fake drugs in Nigeria was closely linked to these national crises and related global trends towards market liberalisation and the commodification of health. In this unfavourable context, policies to regulate fake drugs remained limited as they only addressed the symptoms of a more fundamental political and economic problem: the shift from public health towards private wealth and profit-making.

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