The National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Pharm. (Dr) Albert Kelong Alkali has described the recent ban placed on the issuance of permits, for the importation of codeine, by the Federal Government, as a fire brigade approach, saying such a delicate issue requires holistic approach, so as to avoid creating a bigger challenge.
He noted that sequel to the release of the BBC documentary titled “Sweet sweet codeine”, the Federal Ministry of Health, through the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole, had directed the National Agency for Foods and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to ban the issuance of permits for the importation of codeine, an active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.
Dr Albert Kelong Alkali disclosed this at the national secretariat of the ACPN recently, during a press briefing to call for immediate closure of all open drug markets and restructuring of the chaotic drug distribution in the country, stating that banning of a particular product, was not an outright solution to solving the problem of drug abuse in the country.
The ACPN Chairman further stated that full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG), immediate closure of all open drug markets, across the country are the immediate panacea to the menace of substance abuse in the country, noting that the chaotic drug distribution system has given room to charlatans, quacks, and dubious individuals to take advantage of the porous system and to carry out illicit trading in medicines that should be dispensed by or only under pharmacists’ supervision.
Alkali also asserted that the drug industry has been seen by some individuals, especially charlatans as money-making venture, who have failed to realise that the goal of medicines use is to save lives, adding that pharmacists, who are the custodians of medicines are the only one accountable, as they are being monitored through their controlled drug register that is subject to clinical auditing by regulatory agencies.
“Over the years, the ACPN has been drawing the attention of all state governments, and all the regulatory agencies to the need to properly police the drug distribution chain, and we have always advocated for the closure of all illegal premises. However, the present state in which we find ourselves is rather unfortunate and calls for holistic approach to resolve the issues”, he said.
The ACPN helmsman who said the decades of neglect of the distribution system by the government was responsible for the recent sad abuse of codeine-containing cough syrup and other controlled medicines, called on the government to ensure full implementation of the new Pharmacy Act, and all the policies on controlled medicines, saying this will go a long way in stopping the menace of medicine abuse, as codeine-containing cough syrups are just a segment of controlled medicines being abused.
Alkali also suggested the adoption of a multisectoral approach involving the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other drug control regulators would ensure drug tracking from the manufacturers to the end users. He said: “We should be able to account for all the drugs that are manufactured and imported into this country.
If we have such a tracking system in place, then the issue of drug abuse will be reduced to the barest minimum. “So, the drug distribution system channel must be structured and the new National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG) should be implemented.
The number one community pharmacist in the country who expressed worry that the deadline for the implementation of the new NDDG, which was set for January 2019 might not be met, however, called on the federal, state and local governments to take drug matters seriously, while reiterating that ACPN is ready and will not hesitate to send any erring member to the disciplinary committee.
Also in attendance at the press briefing were the National Secretary of the association, Pharm. (Mrs) Abosede Idowu, and the National Treasurer, Pharm. Madehin Olanrewaju Gafar.