As controlled medicines become highly inaccessible in the country, government and other stakeholders are making efforts to bridge the gap as well as curtail abuse. PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA writes.
Recently, the problem of drug abuse particularly among youths and house wives has become a major concern for government, traditional and religious institution, International Drug Control Agencies, families and well-meaning Nigerians due to the havoc caused by the dangerous phenomenon. This is also as controlled medicines become unavailable and inaccessible in the country, thereby making many patients to undergo untold suffering. In an attempt to address these gaps, the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), had developed the National Policy for Controlled Medicines.
This is in line with the 3 international Drug Control Conventions meant at protecting human health by ensuring access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific purposes while preventing diversion and abuse. the polices and guidelines documents are; National Policy for Controlled Medicines and its implementation strategies, National Guidelines for Quantification of Narcotic Medicines, National Guidelines for Estimation of Psychotropic Substances and Precursors and National Minimum Standards for Drug Dependence Treatment in Nigeria. Speaking at the launching recently in Abuja, the minister of Health,
Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the effort is aimed at protecting human health by ensuring access to controlled medicines for medical and scientific purposes while preventing diversion and abuse. He said it also addresses the issue of stigma and fear associated with the use of some controlled medicines. According to him, controlled medicines, especially schedule 1 narcotics have remained largely unavailable and inaccessible for medical use in the country. Prof. Adewole, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, FMOH, Mr. Clement Uwaifo, noted that the report released by the Global Access to Pain Relief Initiative (GAPRI) in 2012, showed that only 0.1% of patients with HIV/AIDS and cancer that required narcotic medicines to manage moderate and severe pain in the country could access these medicines.
He also said that these patients and those suffering from injuries caused by accident and violence ,some chronic illnesses and those recovering from surgery undergo untold suffering due to lack of opioid analgesics which can easily control pain. The minister therefore informed that the Minimum Standards for Drug Dependence Treatment policy document would guide policy makers and hospitals to assess compliance with standards by the health facilities involved in the treatment of drug dependence.
“The National Guidelines for Quantification of Narcotic Medicines and National Guidelines for Estimation of Psychotropic substances and Precursor s which are some of the tools required to implement the National Policy for Controlled Medicines have been developed. “These guidelines outline the methodology and tools to scientifically estimate the Controlled Medicines and precursors required for medical and scientific purposes in the country” he explained. Speaking further, Adewole stated that the document too has already been used to assess the standards in 11 hospitals in the country while expressing hope that the newly constituted Drug Demand Reduction Unit in FMOH will continue to use this to assess other faculties and provide support training and advice to improve treatment standards’’ “All these documents have been approved at the 60th National Council on Health meeting in November, 2017,’’ he added.
The Minister pointed out that these policy documents are also well articulated in the National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP 2015- 2019), which was the National Roadmap offering both integrated and comprehensive approach that would address a range of drug related issues and provide a solid platform to strengthen responses on drugs that would promote the health, security and well-being of all Nigerians. Earlier in his presentation, the Director, Food and Drugs Department, Pharm. Mashood Lawal, said that the nation was taking the lead on drug related issues in Africa, in line with NDCMP 2015- 2019 Plan. He also stated that the implementation of these policies was critical in enhancing services in tune with best international practice. Lawal stressed the need for FMOH to increase advocacy for funding and disseminate capacity building of staff across the country to ensure that these practices become sustainable and produces the required impact.
The Director General, National Agency for the Control of Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said that the agency is launching a programme which is targeting about 54,000 youths in the pilot study. Lamenting the rate of drug abuse in some cities, especially Lagos and Kano, Prof. Adeyeye said NAFDAC now has desk officers who will be focusing on narcotic in the six geopolitical zones. “In about six weeks, we are going to be going through each senatorial district in each state, so we are going to reach about 54,000 youth in the pilot study, later we are going to expand it. “When you look at cities where drugs are used like Lagos, Kano, it is very bad. In Kano, women abuse drugs and that breaks my heart; how can a woman be abusing drugs? That is why NAFDAC now has desk officers who will be focusing on narcotic in the six geographical zones.
We will be going round but Kano and Lagos will be our first target,” she explained. It would be recalled that the aggravated dimension of the problem of drug abuse and it’s intricate linkage with wide spread cases of criminality, violence and insurgences in the country recently prompted the wife of the President Mrs Aisha Mohammadu Buhari to launch a national campaign against all forms of abuse. The launch by the wife of the President was followed by a roundtable conference on drug abuse organized by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
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