Drug Abuse Epidemic Looms in Nigeria, PSN Warns


– Charges NAFDAC to halt sachet alcoholic drinks’ registration

A group of youths engaging in drug abuse

With over 21 million Nigerians already living under the influence of certain drugs and substances, the country may soon be plunged into an epidemic of drug and substance abuse, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos State Chapter, has warned.

The Society stressed that only proactive and decisive efforts by regulatory agencies, such as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria, and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), can avert the looming outbreak.

Decrying how what they described as inadequate regulation of drugs and substances has worsened the morbidity and mortality rates in the country, the pharmacists charged NAFDAC to, as a matter of national emergency, suspend registration of alcoholic drinks in sachets and other small packs, saying their easy accessibility is fuelling drug abuse and crime.

Citing the report of a National Survey, conducted by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) in 2018, which fixed rate of drug abuse in the country at 21,213,000, the Society saddled the regulators with the responsibility of ensuring the enforcement of extant pharmacy and drug laws in the country, with the ultimate goal of restricting access to hard drugs and substances.

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Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2023 PSN-Lagos Scientific Week, held at the Sheraton Hotels, Ikeja, recently, Chairman of the body, Pharm. Babayemi Oyekunle, gave details of the UNODOC report.

According to him, “ In 2017, 10.6 million people abuse cannabis, 4.6 million Nigerians abuse opiods, 2.4 million abuse cough syrup containing codeine, 2.4 million abuse sedatives and tranquillisers, 481,000 people abuse ecstasy, 340,000 abuse solvent and inhalants, 300,000 abuse prescription inhalants and amphetamines and 92,000 abuse cocaine.”

Oyekunle, who spoke on the theme, “Access to safe and effective medicines in Nigeria: A call to action”, stressed the need for regulators to de-emphasise disciplinary measures against drug users and rather formulate and implement laws to combat illicit access and use of drugs.

He further attributed the rising spate of drug abuse in the country to such factors as dysfunctional family structures, high unemployment rate, peer pressure, extreme poverty, poor regulatory control, poor drug distribution system, uncensored social media influence, porous border, poor implementation of pharmacy and other drug laws, diversion of legitimate exports to illicit use, corruption and compromise at port entries, ignorance on the dangers of hard drugs, among others.

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The Lagos PSN boss also called the attention of the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to recent attempts by some groups in the health ministry to mutilate the configuration of the Pharmacists Consultant Cadre to Specialist Cadre, saying this is contrary to both national and international best practices.

“It is imperative to state that Specialist Cadre has never been on the cards at federal and state levels. For us at the LASG-PSN/JOHESU negotiations, which provided an MOU earlier on, was very unambiguous that our demand has always been and will remain Consultant Cadre and not Specialist Cadre”, he said.

In his keynote address, titled, “Access to safe medicines, based on the PCN Act 2022”, former PSN President, Pharm. Olumide Akintayo, enlightened the pharmacists on the various provisions of the pharmacy and drug laws, as they relate to the practice, while calling for the full implementation of NDDG as stipulated in the PCN Act.

Akintayo categorically flayed the activities of some foreign wholesalers and distributors, who, according to him, have now assumed the status of sole representatives of many companies. This, he said, encourages multinationals to exit the country and still have their products circulating the Nigerian market.

Citing the PCN Act’s provision that places drug matters on Exclusive List, he urged relevant government agencies to prevent pharmaceutical multinationals who exit the country from further doing business in Nigeria, saying such practice is inimical to the development of the economy.

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Akintayo said,  “Specifically, we demand that NAFDAC must not approve a marketing authorisation to alien parties to handle GSK products while the PCN must not register any pharma premises, which seeks to surreptitiously continue GlaxoSmithKline business in Nigeria, if indeed it chooses to exit Nigeria.  This is to protect consumers, the pharma industry and safeguard the economy of Nigeria.

“The quest for safe drugs compels us to encourage the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria to latch on its statutory powers to compel e-labelling of drugs in Nigeria. Proper label initiative will encourage patients to manage, maintain and understand how to use their medication to get the desired therapeutic outcome and create a verifiable measure of accountability for services rendered.”

Also speaking, the ACPN National Chairman, Pharm. Wale Oladigbolu, berated the indiscriminate circulation of drugs at bus stops and on the Internet, charging the PCN and NAFDAC to swing into action and ensure that drugs are not seen everywhere like other commodities.



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