Corruption in Nigerian pharma industry fuelling drugs endemic

Corruption in Nigerian pharma industry fuelling drugs endemic
Pharma firms must do more to root out corruption

1st May 2018 – Powerful cough medicines containing the opioid, codeine, used as a recreational drug, are being sold on the black market by corrupt individuals within big Nigerian pharma companies, according to a new investigation by the BBC.

The documentary shows that Nigeria is suffering from an endemic of the misuse of opioids, with statistics broadcast suggesting that on average 3 million bottles are being consumed across the country each day. Codeine can also lead to serious mental health issues, having a detrimental impact on the population of Nigeria as well as straining already limited health budgets.

Very often individuals addicted to codeine have been able to purchase large quantities on the black market from staff working inside the big pharmaceutical companies that produce it. This completely unregulated activity is driving the endemic in Nigeria. Transparency International is calling on pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria to do more to root out corrupt practices and ensure they are neither willingly complicit, nor ignorant, to their products being sold illegally.

Rachel Cooper, Director Transparency International Pharmaceutical and Health Programme, said:

“This story once again lays bare the disastrous consequences of corruption in the health sector, where it can very often be a matter of life and death. Addiction to all forms of narcotics can destroy communities and families, entrench poverty and take up already limited resources. It is a particular worry that this endemic is most widespread amongst young people, underlining the potential long-term impact of this crisis for Nigeria.”

“It is of deep concern that the investigation has found numerous individuals in big pharma companies selling codeine on the black market – these corrupt individuals are intentionally preying on codeine’s addictive properties to directly fuel this crisis. Nigerian health authorities should immediately investigate this further and international partners should work cooperatively to assist Nigeria in this process.”

“These pharmaceutical companies must wake up to what is happening on their own doorsteps. Corruption in large companies can very rarely be explained away by a few bad apples. The tone from the top is key and those running these companies must ensure they are not encouraging this type of activity to boost profits, and that they actively discourage such behaviour, by attempting to root it out.”