Nigeria bans the use and importation of codeine amid ongoing drug crisis

Nigeria has issued a ban on the use and issuance of permit for the importation of codeine cough syrup to curtail the gross abuse of the drug in the country.

The health Minister, Isaac Adewole, stated that codeine-containing cough syrups should be replaced with less addictive ingredient-containing cough syrup, dextromethorphan. While placing a ban on the sales of codeine without prescription across the West African country, he also directed with immediate effect, the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to supervise the recall for labeling and audit trailing of all Codeine containing cough syrups.

Adewole stated that “the government had an emergency meeting with NAFDAC and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) to inform them of an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine-containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.

NAFDAC on the other hand “was directed to fully 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 country’s Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) was not left out as a directive was issued to “continue enforcement activities on Pharmacies, Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendor’s Shops and outlets in Nigeria.”

The opiate used to treat pain, cough and diarrhoea has various side effects including vomiting, constipation, itchiness, light-headedness, addiction and drowsiness. Because of its lightheaded side effects among others, the drug has been widely abused globally and Nigeria is not an exemption.

Though codeine is the most commonly taken opiate, it is listed on the World Health Organisations (WHO) as an essential medicine. In 2013 about 361,000 kilograms of codeine were produced while 249 000 kilograms were used. The 2014 wholesale cost per dose stood between $0.04 and 40.29 and it is sold over the counter in most countries.

Nigeria’s codeine ban comes after a BBC report on an increase in opioid addiction. The report stated that nearly 24 million opioids were prescribed in 2017 – equivalent to 2,700 packs an hour.

The BBC investigation discovered that there were 10 million more prescriptions than in 2007.  Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of people dying from opioid-related drug misuse are over 2 000.