Govt to curb smuggling of codeine-based cough syrups

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A government panel on Wednesday discussed ways to curb smuggling of codeine-based cough syrups to Bangladesh, besides large-scale heroin trafficking from neighbouring nations, among other issues, the home ministry said in a statement.

"In particular, the issues related to large scale heroin trafficking from neighbouring countries, the diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, emergence of synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances (NPS), and issues related to poppy cultivation in the country were discussed," it said.

"Further, measures to curb smuggling of Tramadol (used in the treatment of severe pain) from India to other countries and that of codeine-based cough syrups to Bangladesh were also deliberated upon," the statement added.

The first meeting of the central-level apex committee was convened on Wednesday to discuss issues related to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) policy and operational matters of the drug law enforcement agencies.

The meeting of the high-level committee, under the Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) mechanism, was convened by Rakesh Asthana, Director General (DG) of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), who is its member-convenor, and attended by AP Maheshwari, Special Secretary (internal security), Home Ministry, and senior officers from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Revenue, chief secretaries of states and Union territories, among others.

The apex committee took stock of the existing drug abuse and trafficking scenario in the country and discussed about the possible mechanisms to address the same, the statement said.

"At the same time, the participants acknowledged that availability of controlled drugs for medical purposes was equally important and presently, there is a lack of adequate access of such drugs for pain relief as well as Buprenorphine for opioid substitution treatment because of stringent policies, which needs to be addressed," it said.

The meeting considered out-of-box solutions to address the NPS problem by way of analogue or generic scheduling of drugs, instead of substance-by-substance scheduling, the home ministry said.

"It was also decided to accelerate the progress towards extracting opiate alkaloids through the Concentrate of Poppy Straw (CPS) route to avoid the opium route, which is prone to diversion and abuse," it said.

The three licit opium poppy cultivating states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were asked to ensure a complete plough back of lanced poppy straw after extraction of opium, the statement said.

The deliberations during the apex committee meeting helped clarify a number of issues as also enhance knowledge of the initiatives being undertaken by various ministries for drug supply reduction, drug demand reduction, tackling substance abuse, including treatment and rehabilitation, and for breaking the nexus in drug trafficking, it added.

The platform will definitely give a fillip to the coordinated action between various ministries, states, Union territories and agencies to check the menace of drugs in the country, the statement said.

The government had constituted the NCORD mechanism under the DG, NCB, in order to have an effective coordination amongst all the drug law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders, as also to provide a common platform for discussions on drug trafficking-related issues.

The NCORD mechanism has recently been revamped by the home ministry to create a four-tier structure for improving coordination in NDPS matters.

Recently, the government has also constituted an apex committee under the Union home secretary to support the coordination mechanism under NCORD for enabling a focussed resolution of policy and operational issues.

Apart from the apex-level committee under the home secretary at the central level, there is an executive committee also at the central level, apart from committees at the state and district levels for effective down-the-line coordination, the statement said.

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