An amendment bill that passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday has proposed a N2 million fine and a 2-year jail term for offenders of the ban on Tramadol and Codeine

The bill which seeks to amend the Food, Drugs and Related Products ( Registration, etc) Act Cap. F33 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to review the penalties and confer jurisdiction on High Court of the State to try offences under the Act, was sponsored by Hon. Betty Apiafi ( PDP Rivers) and passed second reading yesterday.

The principal act regulates the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, sale or distribution of processed food, drug and related products and their registration.

In the lead debate on the bill, Apiafi said: ” In Nigeria, between January and December 2015, Ibe thousand and forty-four (1044) patients were admitted for treatment in the 11 treatment centers currently part of e Nigeria Epidemiological Network of Drug Use ( NENDU) reporting system.

“28.3 percent of the patients had an opiate addiction and the opiates were mainly prescription Medicines: Tramadol (71 percent as 1st most frequently used substance and specified), Codeine (15.1 percent) and Pentazocine (9.9 percent), Heroine and Morphine represented only 3.3 percent of t opiates declared,” she said.

She added that since 2015, Codeine has nearly overtaken Tramadol as the most abused opiate in Nigeria. “Thousands of young people in Nigeria are addicted to Codeine cough syrup- a medicine that has become a street drug. Three million bottles are are drunk everyday in Nigeria’s North alone, according to a recent Nigerian government report..”

She also noted that the World Health Organisation, WHO estimated in 2011, that 64 percent of antimalarial drugs in the country were found to be counterfeit.

” it is assessed that counterfeit drugs provided approximately $75 billion in revenue annually to illegal operators and have caused more than 150,000 deaths worldwide,” Apiafi said, adding that ” we legislators must also do our part in this war against commercialisation of illegal unregistered food and drugs.”

Sections 6,7,9 and 13 of the Principal Act were amended in the new bill which the lawmaker said was birthed 25 years ago and had never seen any amendment or reform till date.

The new bill stipulates penalties for individuals up to the tune of N500,000 or a prison term of 2 years or both; and in the case of a corporate body, all the directors, managers. Partners, trustees etc would be guilty of an offence and would be punished as it they had committed the offence themselves.

The bill was referred to the House committee on Healthcare Services for further legislative input after it was passed by majority of members on the floor.

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