-Says Ban on Codeine Production and Importation is Temporal
Following the directive by the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to suspend the further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine, the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye has said the embargo is not permanent, but temporal.
The DG, during a mini press conference with journalists in her office on Wednesday, 2 May 2018, said although the issue of narcotics control requires a multisectoral approach, it became imperative for the agency to put a temporary hold on the issuance of permits for codeine, because things cannot continue the way they have been, hence the agency had to take action, as peoples’ lives were at stake.
She said: “Previously before the release of the BBC documentary, I met with my directors, because we have got clips regarding the issue, and we agreed that there is going to be a temporary ban on issuance of permits for codeine, as it is NAFDAC responsibility to issue permits, for X kg of codeine to company A, and Y Kg of codeine to Company B.
“So we decided to place a temporary embargo, and until NAFDAC gets it’s house together, the manufacturers get their house together, the distributors get their house together, PCN gets it’s house together, Ministry of Health, gets it’s house together, and since it is a multisectoral challenge, it definitely requires a multisectoral approach to get to it root”.
On how far the agency has gone in trailing the codeine related drugs in circulation, the NAFDAC DG intimated pressmen that her officials have already trapped some cartons of the drugs in some affected companies in Ilorin, Kwara State, noting that the inspection and enforcement exercise is still going in the affected pharmaceutical companies.
Her words: “The recall of labelled drugs is for manufacturers to get all the codeine related products they have produced back to their warehouses and destroy them, else if our officials come across the products anywhere, and found them in excess of the amount of codeine approved for the company, the pharmaceutical company that produced them will be fined heavily”.
Unfortunately, since there is no data base of codeine addicts, she said it is difficult for the agency to assist addicts in anyway. She however advised them to go through withdrawal system, which is a gradual process, as an abrupt stop of the habit may not be possible for them.
Going forward on the issue of drug control, Prof. Adeyeye stated that the absent of NAFDAC at the ports is one of the major factors aiding the illegal circulation of narcotics in the country, adding that “If NAFDAC is not allowed in the ports, we are hiding our heads in the sand”.
Another reason she forwarded that partially allowed the distribution of illegal drugs in the country was the limitation of NAFDAC to maximally inspect and supervise the large numbers of food and water companies, about 6000, 200 pharmaceutical companies, and unlimited number of cosmetic companies in the country, due to limited staff and equipment.
According to her, the chaotic distribution chain was also fanned by the ineffective supervision of community pharmacies by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) as “PCN was not doing as much as it should do”.
Hence, describing drug abuse as an epidemic and a societal challenge, she called for the contribution of all stakeholders in the country, saying it could be anybody’s relative that might be affected tomorrow, thus it is everybody’s responsibility to see that drug misuse becomes a thing of the past in the country.
She further disclosed that the agency is flagging off a nationwide campaign against drug abuse, in collaboration with Young Pharmacists Group (YPG) as they will be used as the channels to enlighten the populace on the dangers of drug abuse, particular among the youths- secondary school students and undergraduates.
Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has hailed the professionalism of the BBC Africa Eye documentary investigators on codeine abuse and their bravery in unravelling the decadence, noting that the Society had since last year drawn the attention of the public to the issue, and had even taken advocacy to the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Traditional Rulers, Governors of affected states and DG NAFDAC.
However, the affected pharmaceutical company in the BBC documentary, Emzor Pharmaceuticals has sent a statement disclosing that the company has stopped the production and distribution of Emzolyn with Codeine, pending a thorough review.