By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health has launched the drug related health polices and guidelines document named, the 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, aimed at improving the quality of health services in Country.
Speaking at the launching in Abuja recently, the Hon. Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, FMOH, Mr. Clement Uwaifo, said that controlled medicines ,especially schedule 1 narcotics have remained largely unavailable and inaccessible for medical use in Nigeria.
Prof. Adewole 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 Nigeria 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 explained, in order to address these gaps, the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC), had developed the National Policy for Controlled Medicines in line with the spirit of 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.
He informed that the policy offers protection to patients and healthcare professionals within the framework of existing laws and policies as well as a 5 year strategic plan of actions to be implemented from March, 2018.
He further said that the National Guidelines for Quantification of Narcotic Medicines for Estimation of Psychotropic Substances and Precursors outlines the methodology and tools to scientifically estimate the controlled medicines and precursors required for medical and scientific purposes in the country.
“Importantly this data can also be used by law enforcement officials to monitor the use of precursor chemicals and their potential misuse.
“we hope this data will therefore contribute to improved health outcomes and reduce diversion of these controlled substances for illicit purposes and thereby reducing crime in Nigeria’’, he said.
He emphasised 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.
‘’This document too has already been used to assess the standards in 11 hospitals in the country and it is my 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 our 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 Nigeria was taking the lead on drug related issues in Africa, in line with NDCMP 2015- 2019 Plan. He also said that the implementation of these policies was critical in enhancing services in tune with best international practice.
He 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.