Nigeria has announced a ban on the production and import of cough syrup containing codeine after a BBC investigation into its role in an addiction epidemic.
A health ministry spokesman told the BBC remaining stocks in shops could be sold with a prescription.
The BBC investigation showed the syrup being sold on the black market to be used by young Nigerians to get high.
It recorded a number of pharmaceutical figures selling the drug illegally.
The joint probe by the BBC’s new investigation unit, Africa Eye, and BBC Pidgin prompted a swift response from people across the country, including Nigeria’s first lady, Aisha Buhari, who said in an Instagram post she was “deeply saddened” by the rise of the problem, especially in the north of Nigeria.
“I call on all security agencies, lawmakers, judiciary, drug manufacturers, civil society, regulators, teachers, parents, neighbours and you to take this as a personal war and halt the menace,” she added.
However, Olajide Oshundun, the Ministry of Health’s assistant director of information, said the ban was a result of months of work by a committee, which submitted a report into the widespread abuse of the medication on Tuesday.While existing stocks could be sold, manufacturers in Nigeria “have been told by federal government not to use codeine in cough syrup”, Mr Oshundun told the BBC.
“Those that want to import the substance, it is been banned now. It is completely banned,” he added.
The cough syrup was legal, but it was against the law to sell it to people without a doctor’s prescription or those who did not have a pharmaceutical licence.
The Nigerian Senate estimates that as many as three million bottles of codeine syrup are drunk every single day in just two states, Kano and Jigawa.