Finally, FG Bans Production of Cough Syrups Containing Codeine

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• Saraki: Prevalence of drug abuse is looming catastrophe

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Following the high incidence of drug abuse in the country, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) Tuesday directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to ban, with immediate effect, further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as an active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.

The federal government’s ban is coming at a time the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has warned that the widespread nature of drug abuse among young Nigerians is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, made this known in his office in Abuja on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

He said that the directive became necessary due to the gross abuse codeine usage has been subjected to in the country, especially in Northern Nigeria.

In its stead, the minister said codeine-containing cough syrups should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive.

He also directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labelling and audit trailing of all codeine-containing cough syrups in the country, while he has also banned the sales of Codeine-containing cough syrup without prescription across the country.

He noted that NAFDAC had an emergency meeting with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) to inform them that there is an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine-containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.

The PCN has been directed to continue enforcement activities at pharmacies, patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ shops and outlets throughout the country.

NAFDAC was also directed to fully carry out its functions among others: to regulate and control the manufacturing, distribution and sale of drugs, including inspection at points of entry of drugs, drug products and food for compliance with the new directive.

The minister stated that the FMOH shall ensure collaboration among regulatory agencies namely, NAFDAC, PCN, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), for effective implementation of extant Acts, regulations, policies and guidelines on codeine control and usage.

‘Furthermore, these agencies shall work together to increase pharmacovigilance around codeine, tramadol and other related substances of abuse,’ Adewole stated.

Already, NAFDAC has developed IEC materials that will be used in an already planned national campaign against drug abuse, an awareness programme that includes Young Pharmacists Group of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. This will soon be flagged off in Kano and Lagos.

As a way of discouraging youths to shun the drugs, the federal government through Federal Ministry of Health shall partner with National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), football celebrities, members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Performing Musicians of Nigeria and other celebrities to drive national campaign against drug abuse.

“The FMOH shall ensure that drug treatment intervention for victims of substances abuse shall be undertaken across the spectrum of healthcare delivery system in the country,” Adewole stated.

He stated that civil society organisations shall be strengthened to deliver effective sensitization, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.

Recalled that in view of the serious public health concerns drug abuse poses to Nigerians, a working group which comprised of experts from various ministries, agencies of government (including regulatory agencies), development partners and associations was constituted in January and tagged Codeine Control and other Related Matters Working Group (CCRWG).

The CCRWG was formally inaugurated on January 23, 2018, with clear terms of reference of developing key recommendations and strategies to address the menace of codeine, tramadol and other related substances in Nigeria.

The CCRWG submitted its interim report on April 12, 2018, and recommended short-, medium- and long-term measures for implementation in a memorandum submitted to the Minister, yesterday.

Finally, Adewole restated the commitment of the federal government to ensure the full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG) by January 01, 2019 and closure of all open drug markets penultimate the implementation date of the NDDG that is, December 31, 2018. It is a public knowledge that easy access to codeine, tramadol and other substances of abuse is promoted by the chaotic drug distribution system

In the same vein, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has warned that the widespread nature of drug abuse among young Nigerians, is a catastrophe waiting to happen.