The Ministry of Health (MOH) will in June this year launch a medicine policy to deepen efforts to combat the growing menace of counterfeit medication, pharmaceutical crime and substance abuse.
The Minister for Health, Mr. Kweku Agyeman Manu, who announced this in Accra yesterday, noted that the medicine policy had become very necessary in the wake of the illegal vending and abnormal usage of narcotic substance including tramadol in all parts of the country.
He was speaking at the opening of an inter-agency consultative forum on counterfeit drugs and substance abuse organised by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Africa Alliance Partnership.
The two-day forum which was necessitated by the need to make Ghana free from the pharmaceutical crime menace and protect citizens from the ills and dangers of substance abuse is being attended by healthcare practitioners, law enforcement agencies, legal practitioners and civil society groups among others.
The forum would within the two days develop strategic interventions to counter the influx of counterfeit medications and substance abuse.
Mr. Agyeman Manu said the recent increase in the abuse of drugs including tramadol and codeine had become a national threat which required a concerted effort by all stakeholders to curb.
The effects of drug abuse on society and individuals, he said, included loss of revenue, productivity, child exploitation, upsurge of kidney problems and increase in criminality.
He said the side effect of tramadol abuse is not something that can be easily contained in the system stating, 'the irony is that when you become addicted to tramadol, we do not have enough rehabilitation systems to take care of you'.
Tramadol is a man-made narcotic analgesic and controlled Prescription-Only-Medicine (POM), usually prescribed by doctors to patients suffering from moderate to severe pain, the approved dosage forms of tramadol, registered for use in Ghana are 50 to 100 milligrams (mg) tablets and capsules and 50mg/ml to two ml injection.
The Health Minister observed that the menace of pharmaceutical crime had become a global phenomenon which was a threat to the public and poses a significant threat to security and the economies of countries.
Mrs Olivia Boateng, Head of Tobacco and Substance Abuse Department at the FDA said the medicinal benefits of tramadol can quickly become harmful when overused and taken in dosages above 100ml.
She said reasons given by tramadol abusers for abusing it were among others to enhance sexual drive and prolong ejaculation, gain extra energy for manual work, stay alert for long hours to study and for commercial driving.
Mrs. Boateng said the abuse of tramadol had moved further by mixing it with energy drinks, alcoholic beverages and codeine which causes addiction and life threatening side effects.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwesi Osei said tramadol abuse can have side effect in all parts of the human body.
"Tramadol is an opioid, and opioids are classical drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the illicit prescription pain relievers," he said
He said tradamol abuse affect the functioning of the heart, causes confusion, cardiac arrest affects the respiratory system, cause convolution and alter the functioning of the mind there by causing mental illness
Dr. Akwesi Osei said tramadol abuse is a recent menace with abuses as high as 500 ml and health experts are considering pushing for a ban on tramadol in Ghana adding "presently we are monitoring the state of tramadol abuse and we would have to ban it if it gets to the stage we have to.".