Codeine Saga: Our Side of the Story – Emzor Chairman

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Emzor Pharmaceuticals Industrial Limited, one of the companies whose factories were shut down following a BBC documentary on the unethical distribution of codeine-containing syrups in the country, has further opened up on the issue.

Addressing a press conference at its head office on Sunday, Dr Stella Okoli MON, chairman/group managing director, Emzor Group, said that she had been inundated with requests for clarification on negative stories trending online about the company.

Codeine Saga

L-R: Mrs Uzoma Ezeoke, executive director, Emzor Group; Dr Stella Okoli MON, chairman/group managing director; and Pharm. Chinelo Umeh, regulatory affairs manager.

“As you are all aware, on Monday, 30 April, 2018, the BBC broadcast a documentary on the abuse of codeine syrup in Nigeria, especially in the northern states. In the said documentary, one of our products, Emzolyn with codeine, was featured. On 2 May, NAFDAC officials from the Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, conducted an inspection of our factory and were given full access to all the records they requested. We are happy to announce that after carrying out all necessary due diligence, NAFDAC has now reopened the factory.

“As parents and especially a mother, I am deeply saddened by the problem of drug abuse and its damaging effects on our children and youths. Even more painful is the fact that a genuine therapeutic product, made for the relief of a specific illness, has been turned into a substance of abuse,” she said.

Okoli commended the federal government, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other relevant agencies for their prompt response to what she described as “a serious matter of deep concern to Nigerians.”

She added that NAFDAC, after due inspections is satisfied that Emzor’s manufacturing processes conform to all laid down procedures and also has valid Good Manufacturing Practice certifications.

The Emzor boss therefore called for collective effort, cautioning detractors to desist from using the codeine saga to score cheap political points.

“We must not fail to always condemn what is wrong. That was why I mentioned earlier that everybody must get involved. We must not be seen making political statements to score cheap points.

“I am quite humbled by the empathy and love Nigerians have shown us. People kept calling and texting to ask how we were doing. We are fully committed to quality. The events of these past two weeks have only served to further strengthen that commitment,” she said.

On how the company was caught in the web of BBC’s “Sweet, Sweet Codeine” video documentary that went viral, Mrs Uzoma Ezeoke, executive director, Emzor Group, told journalists that the management saw the six-minute video clip online just like everybody else.

“I was heartbroken after watching the clip because there was nothing ‘sweet, sweet’ about that codeine documentary. Nevertheless, we set a panel to investigate the veracity of the report and necessary steps were taken,” she said.

Ezeoke disclosed that aside from relieving the sales representative indicted in the video, his photographs and personal details were submitted to both the police and NAFDAC officials (based on request) for necessary action.

“We are equally saddened by the fact that this is the first time a NAFDAC enforcement and investigation team would be coming into Emzor’s premises because they have no business here. Unless there is violation of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), I am still wondering how a documentary alone should lead to the closure of a factory.

“We would like to use this medium to put the record straight that only the codeine syrup plant was shut down, not the entire company,” she noted.

In reassurance of its quality control, the executive director reiterated that for every manufacturing process carried out in their premises, Emzor has met its cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) requirements.

“We don’t cut corners but focus more on quality which we built our reputation on. Like most countries, our demography is skewed towards the youth. You cannot afford to be on the wrong side with them.

“It is unfortunate that we found ourselves as a ‘key selling point’ for the BBC documentary. All eyes were on us even when others were mentioned. To compound the issue, we heard that the BBC documentary viewing took place at Sheraton here and nobody invited us. Is that fair?” she quipped.

Ezeoke expressed gratitude to the company’s loyal customers and stakeholders for their patience, support and understanding while the incident lasted.

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