The Nigeria Ministry of Health has directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to ban with immediate effect further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine as active pharmaceutical ingredient for cough preparations.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said this in a statement on Tuesday.
The directive came less than 48 hours after a documentary titled, ‘Sweet, Sweet Codeine,’ was aired on BBC.
The documentary which has gone viral showed some Nigerian youths who were addicted to codeine displaying symptoms of mental illness and confined to an ill-equipped rehabilitation centre.
The minister said the decision to ban codeine became necessary due to the gross abuse of its use.
Adewole said cough syrups containing codeine should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive.
He also directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labelling and audit trailing of all cough syrups that contain codeine in the country.
The minister noted that NAFDAC had an emergency meeting with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group to inform them that there was an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine-containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal had been abolished.
The statement read in part, “The PCN has been directed to continue enforcement activities on pharmacies, patent and proprietary medicine vendor 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.
Adewole said the ministry would ensure collaboration among regulatory agencies namely, NAFDAC, PCN, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, for effective implementation of extant Acts, regulations, policies and guidelines on codeine control and usage.
“Furthermore, these agencies shall work together to increase pharmaco-vigilance around codeine, tramadol and other related substances of abuse,” Adewole stated.
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has warned that the spate of drug abuse in Nigeria will become catastrophic if left unchecked.