Weak regulatory agencies led to drug abuse crisis
*NIROPHARM, PSN fault nationwide ban of codeine, shutdown of Emzor, others
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and the Nigeria Representative of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NIROPHARM) have blamed weak regulatory control and extremely poor funding of regulatory agencies for the ongoing drug abuse crisis in the country.
Immediate Past President of PSN and member of the Executive Council of the Society, Olumide Akintayo, yesterday told The Guardian that the nationwide banning of codeine and the shutdown of Emzor and other indicted pharmaceutical companies is not the best solution to the crisis.
Olumide in a telephone chat with The Guardian yesterday said: “The Prof. Isaac Adewole led Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has applied lazy intellectual approach to the issues. The reason is very clear. Poor and weak regulatory control has led to this and ofcourse extremely poor funding for all the regulatory agencies to achieve their mandate. If the most abused substance is codeine and you have banned it, you are encouraging people to shift to other drugs. The correct attitude is not to ban.
“The right attitude is to strengthen the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the PSN to recruit the full complements of staff. Despite what NAFDAC and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are doing, they do not have full capacity to function optimally. Adewole has set December 2018 deadline to implement the National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG). What is he doing to achieve that? If you close Emzor, you are just stifling few local firms that are struggling to survive in this hostile environment. I am not condoning unethical practice. Instead of stifling the growth, let us deal with the menace instead of the side effects.”
Also, NIROPHARM in a statement signed by the President, Mr. Femi Soremekun, said the abuse of codeine, other opioids such as tramadol as well as hypnotics such as flunitrazepam is endemic and requires a holistic approach by the government, regulators, industry players and the community to mitigate.
NIROPHARM, however, commended the recent efforts of the National Assembly in proposing two bills on substance abuse and mental health, as well as drug control. Government need to set up a multidisciplinary committee to evaluate the root causes as well as look at ways of managing the menace of substance abuse in Nigeria.
The group urged government to work with stakeholders on proffering safer alternatives to these drugs of abuse so as to prevent imminent underground and illicit trade on these opioids.
They said government should put adequate measures in place for the fallout of the ban on codeine syrups including managing the withdrawal syndrome on addicts and also create more rehabilitation centres to take care of such fallouts.NIROPHARM said the need for the implementation of the National Drug Distribution Guidelines (NDDG) cannot be over-emphasized and NIROPHARM fully support the January 2019 take-off date.
They said growing menace of unhindered access to all classes of drugs by the populace could only by tamed with good distribution practices by all stakeholders and proper oversight by regulators.NIROPHARM said the NDDG must be hinged on good infrastructure, regulations and technology with track and trace components such as serialization of each pack of product released into the Nigerian Pharmaceutical supply chain; where all players in the supply and value chain are locked in, creating transparency on what comes in and what goes out.
They said the regulatory environment is weak and deficient, and require strengthening for comprehensive regulation of all outlets involved in the supply and dispensing of pharmaceutical products.NIROPHARM said it is open to consultation with government to look at ways to improve the drug distribution system in Nigeria.