Worried by the increasing cases of drug abuse among the populace, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, has directed the recall of 2 .4 million bottles of cough syrup containing codeine after a recent audit of the substance, carried out by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
According to a statement made available in Abuja on Sunday by the Director, Media and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Boade Akinola, the recall demonstrated the Federal Government’s resolve to stem the abuse of codeine and other substances in Nigeria.
Akinola said the minister had recently received the final report of the 22- man Stakeholders Committee set up by the Ministry to address the worrisome menace of codeine abuse in Nigeria.
Akinola also quoted Adewole as saying that the audit trail and subsequent recall of the substance was part of recommendations of Stakeholders Committee set up by the ministry to address codeine abuse in Nigeria.
Reports show that as many as three million bottles of codeine syrup are drunk every single day in just two states, Kano and Jigawa.
Codeine containing syrups are controlled by regulation and should not be freely sold, yet they get into the hands of people through leakages in the system.
Codeine overdose can cause schizophrenia (mental instability) and organ failure. Other known adverse effects of codeine abuse include: respiratory depression; hallucination and physical dependence as a result of continued use.
The minister said the committee members were drafted from a broad spectrum of the health sector in collaboration with relevant agencies as part of Pharmacovigilance and renewed effort to monitor drug distribution channels and sanitise the system .
The Minister recalled that the committee was an offshoot of the Press release issued by the Ministry on the temporary ban of Codeine production and distribution.
Codeine syrup addiction is a problem across Africa, with reports of addiction in Kenya, Ghana, Niger, and Chad.
In 2016, India banned multiple brands of codeine cough syrup following reports of addition.
Adewole said the committee has Director -General of NAFDAC , Prof. Christianah Adeyeye as the chairman . Other members include Muhammad Abdullahi , Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA), Elijah Mohamed, the Registrar of Pharmacists Council of Nigeria ; Mr Moshood Lawal , Director , Food and Drugs Services , Federal Ministry of Health; Ahmed Yakasai, President , Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria ( PSN ) among others .
The Federal Government had on May 1, banned the production and importation of codeine as active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough syrup preparations to check substance abuse among Nigerians.
The minister, who commended NAFDAC for its proactive action on abuse of codeine, also directed NAFDAC to ban the issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.
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 nationwide.
The federal government had also banned the sale of cough syrup containing codeine without prescription .
In this regard , the minister said PCN had been directed to continue enforcement activities on pharmacies , patent and proprietary medicine vendors ’ shops and outlets throughout the country.
He also directed NAFDAC to carry out its functions in compliance with the new directives .
The minister said cough syrups containing codeine should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive .
Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant used to treat coughing. It is also a drug of the morphinan class with sedative , dissociative , and stimulant properties
Stakeholders in the health sector and many prominent Nigerians have continued to express worry over the recent increase in drug abuse in the country. One of them, Isa Mohammed, a Kano-based pharmacist attributed the rampant abuse in the north to “access and supply”.
As for Mohammed, an outright ban alone will only be a temporary fix if government does not take on the much tougher problem of regulation. Addicts, he says, will likely turn to abusing other drugs, some with worse effects. “Banning codeine is not the issue, regulation of drugs is what we need,” he said
The Medical Director, Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Oluyemisi Ogun, once described the problem of drug abuse in the country as a time bomb.
“We have an epidemic on hand, which is the issue of drug abuse. We are seeing more and more of this and it is a menace. I would urge that attention be drawn to it urgently.”
Recently, Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on substance abuse saying that “it was a major cause of insurgency and armed robberies and violence.”
While the Senate is proposing a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill, as part of a legislative framework to combat use of dangerous psychoneurotic substances nationwide, stakeholders want the executive arm of government to provide drug rehabilitation centres and clinics where victims of drug abuse can go seek help when needed.
They urged NAFDAC to embark on a vigorous sensitisation campaign on the dangers of drug abuse and steps on achieving a successful rehabilitation for people with the addiction”.