The Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Lagos State branch, has described the recent ban on the issuance of permits, for the importation of codeine, by the Federal Government as a wrong step, taken in a wrong direction.
This was disclosed recently at the secretariat of the association, during a press briefing to intimate the public on the stand of the ACPN on the ban, as well to call for immediate closure of all open drug markets, reconstitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) board, and restructuring of the chaotic drug distribution in the country.
Addressing the press, the Chairman of the association, Pharm. Olabanji Benedict Obideyi, noted with dismay that the ban would not be so effective, as it would only result in pushing up the acquisition cost of codeine, as the old available stocks would now be sold secretly by charlatans.
He stated further that the outright ban of codeine has denied some citizens access to medications that are needed to cater for their health, as it has been observed that not everyone that uses the drug, abuse it. “For instance, should we say because people drive carelessly and have auto accidents, the use of vehicles should now be banned? Certainly not, but this was exactly what the federal government has done”.
According to him, codeine-containing cough syrup is not hazardous as all the news revolving around it and its outright ban by the federal government suggested, and banning of a particular product is not an outright solution to solving the problem of drug abuse in the country.
The ACPN boss, however, stated that immediate dismantling of all open drug markets, across the country, is the immediate panacea to the menace of substance abuse in the country, noting that federal government should once and for all be decisive in implementing the Drug Distribution Policy, rather than dragging the foot on it.
Obideyi also asserted that the federal government should as a matter of urgency constitute the board of PCN, saying this would pave way for the discipline of any erring member of the pharmacy profession, who violates laws guiding distribution and dispensing of pharmaceutical products. “PCN on its part should carry out routine monitoring so as to ensure that only registered wholesale and retail pharmacies do bulk distribution and dispensing to patients respectively,” he advised.
“NAFDAC, the sole agency of government charged with issuing permits, authorisation and registration of medicine, should stop issuing permits and registration to the endless number of companies applying to manufacture the abused products, while those already granted authorisation should be regularly monitored to ensure they are not exceeding the production limits approved for them”, he said.
On her part, Pharm. Abiola Paul-Ozieh, immediate past chairman, ACPN, asserted that government should be held responsible for the continued abuse of pharmaceuticals, arguing that government delay in closing open drug markets and implementing the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) which would have corrected the chaotic drug distribution system, while bringing about easy recall of defected products remained the root cause of drug abuse in Nigeria.
While maintaining that the ban on codeine was against the UN position on narcotics, which provides that narcotic drugs could be used within the framework of medical purposes, she said codeine is not only used as a cough suppressant but can also be used as a pain reliever, adding that the major implication was that those addicted to the drug will become desperate and may become violent. “They would do anything to try to get it, and that would put pressure on the distribution system such that they would be willing to pay anything to have it”, Paul-Ozieh said.
The ACPN former boss, further accused government of paying lip service to the fight against drug abuse, said government lacks the political will to put order into the chaotic drug distribution system, saying there is need for the country to address the issue of drug abuse holistically and find ways of rehabilitating those Nigerians that are affected.
Also speaking, Pharm. (Alh) Aminu Abdulsalam reiterated the fact that the Federal Government should not have just banned the product suddenly, as every ban should follow a process or procedure. According to him, since it takes almost one year to get a license for manufacturing these drugs or importing them, it should also take a little time to effect a ban on the products.
He stated that he would have expected the Federal Minister of Health to place a suspension first on importation and production of these products first. Then, call for an audit of these drugs so that they can be sure of what is still in circulation. He explained that some people would have had these products coming into the country and that these people, as well as those that already have these products in stock, would have suffered economic loss.
Speaking in the same vein, the duo of Pharm. (Mrs) Bolanle Adeniran, chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Lagos State branch, and Pharm. Bola Oyawole, said that the ban was not a solution to the problem on the ground, saying the outright closure of open drug markets scattered all over the country would stop abuse and guarantee the safety of Nigerians.
According to the duo, the nation’s drug industry has been neglected for decades by the government and was made worse by appointment of the wrong person into the position of the Director General, NAFDAC, by the last administration, a situation they said, led to charlatans and hawkers taking advantage of the lapse to carry out illicit trading in medicines.
Also in attendance at the press briefing were the secretary, ACPN, Pharm. Okotie Jonah; editor-in-chief, Pharm. Paul Owolabi; treasurer, Pharm. George Agbude; vice-chairman, Pharm. Lawrence Ekhator, among others.