Codeine off shelves: Here’s what you need to know

Although many people believe that codeine has a soothing relief on cough and flu, not many people are aware that persistent intake of codeine is harmful to the body. According to some health experts, “Codeine can cause opioid tolerance, dependence, addiction, poisoning, and in high doses, death.”

Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia found the rate of codeine-related deaths in Australia more than doubled between 2000 to 2009. “Nationally, we are seeing 150 people die each year because of codeine overdoses,” Dr Bastian Seidel of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Health Minister Professor Isaac Adewole had said that the ban was introduced because of “the gross abuse of codeine usage in the country”. The announcement followed a BBC investigation into the illicit sale of the medicine to young people and the dangers of addiction.

But Adewole said in a statement that the new measures were the result of recommendations by a working committee set up in January to look into the misuse of prescribed drugs.

The ban applies to all “sales of codeine-containing cough syrup without prescription across the country”, he said. Similarly, the Health Minister, 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, while he equally banned sales of Codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country.

He noted that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control had an emergency meeting with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) to inform them that there is an embargo on all new applications for registration of codeine- containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.

The PCN has been directed to continue enforcement activities on pharmacies, patent and proprietary medicine vendors’ shops and outlets throughout the country.

Codeine, one of the most commonly used opioid narcotics in the world, is a relatively short-acting analgesic, with most effects lasting a few hours. A member of the opiates class of narcotic prescription medications, codeine is derived from a member of the opium poppy plant.

Opiates include other drugs such as heroin, Vicodin, hydrocodone, OxyContin, and Demerol. Codeine is generally prescribed by a physician to treat mild-to-moderate levels of pain, manage a pesky cough, and occasionally treat gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.

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