The Federal Ministry of Health has banned the importation of codeine as an active pharmaceutical ingredient in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, gave the directive to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in his office on Tuesday, according to a statement issued by the ministry.
The directive ordered NAFDAC to immediately stop further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine.
This implies that codeine related drugs will no longer be imported or produced in the country.
The sale of codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country was also banned.
According to the statement, the directive became necessary due to the gross abuse of the drug in the country.
The BBC recently aired a documentary showing the traumatic and stimulating effects of codeine on the Nigerian youth and how the substance is being abused across the nation.
The minister directed that the codeine contained in cough syrups should be replaced with Dextromethorphan, which is less addictive.
Codeine is an active pharmaceutical ingredient used in preparation of cough syrups. Unfortunately, the drug has been abused and used as stimulants or ecstasy drugs by mostly youth.
The minister also directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labeling and audit trailing of all codeine containing cough syrups in the country.
According to the statement, the NAFDAC had an emergency meeting with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) to inform them that there is an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine- containing cough syrups. Applications for renewal have also been abolished.
“The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has been directed to continue enforcement activities on Pharmacies, Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendor’s Shops and outlets throughout the country,” it stated.
The 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.
The minister stated that the ministry shall ensure collaboration among regulatory agencies namely, NAFDAC, PCN, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), for effective implementation of extant Acts, regulations, policies and guidelines on codeine control and usage.
“Furthermore, these agencies shall work together to increase pharmacovigilance around codeine, tramadol and other related substances of abuse,” Mr Adewole stated.
The ministry said the federal government through the health ministry shall partner with National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), football celebrities, members of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Performing Musicians of Nigeria and other celebrities to drive national campaign against drug abuse.
“The FMOH shall ensure that drug treatment intervention for victims of substances abuse shall be undertaken across the spectrum of health care delivery system in the country,” Mr. Adewole added.
He stated that civil society organisations shall be strengthened to deliver effective sensitisation, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.
Finally, Mr Adewole restated the commitment of government to ensure the full implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG) by January 1, 2019.