The federal government has banned the production and importation of codeine in Nigeria. Professor Isaac Adewole, minister of health, gave the directive to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 a day after a BBC documentary exposed the abuse of the syrup. The BBC report had highlighted “codeine addiction epidemic” in some parts of the country and how young Nigerians are using the substance to get high. In the report by the BBC, Emzor Pharmaceuticals was indicted for its alleged role in the sale of the substance, leading to the company announcing a suspension of its distribution.
Prof. Adewale said the ban was necessitated by the high abuse of codeine in the country. According to his directive, NAFDAC should immediately stop further issuance of permits for the importation of the substance and instead, should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive. The minister also banned the sales of codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country, even as he directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labelling and audit trailing of all codeine containing cough syrups in the country. He went further to say that the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) had also been informed of the embargo on all new applications for registration of such syrups containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.
Following the BBC report that its executive was discovered to have been involved in the sale of syrups containing codeine in the ‘black market’, Emzor Pharmaceuticals announced a suspension on the distribution of such syrups. In a statement issued by Emzor on Tuesday, the company said the distribution had been suspended pending the outcome of a “full and thorough internal investigation” on the issue. The company however denied that it is involved in its direct sales to members of the public.
Hear the full statement from Emzor:
Emzor Pharmaceuticals is a responsible and ethical company with over 120 lines including Emzolyn with Codeine under licence from NAFDAC. Emzor is treating the findings of the BBC documentary with the upmost seriousness and has launched a full and thorough investigation. Emzor adheres fully to the documentation guidelines for the handling, production, storing and distribution of products containing codeine. Our staff are trained on the controlled status of codeine and codeine products and supply guidelines. Emzor is not involved in the direct sales to individual members of the public. Emzor does not sanction the supply of Emzolyn with Codeine in any way that breaches the Dangerous Drugs Act or NAFDAC guidelines. Emzor’s daily production is below 0.5% of the reported estimated daily amounts of codeine reportedly consumed in Kano and Jigawa States. The Sales Rep depicted in the BBC video was initially placed on suspension and has now been summarily dismissed following an investigation. Any representations made by the Sales Rep are in breach of company policy and ethics and were undertaken independently by him.
The distribution of Emzolyn with Codeine has been suspended pending the results of a full and thorough internal investigation. We hope the findings of the documentary will shed further light on the extent and impact of the illicit trade and consumption of codeine. We hope that full stakeholder engagement will result in impactful action against the abuse, smuggling and faking of drugs on the continent. Thank you.