ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has dismissed media reports that ephedrine was a ‘poor man’s cocaine’, terming it as baseless and supported without facts.
The controversial drug recently came into the limelight when a senior official of the health department was arrested in connection with illegal allocation and manipulation of quota to import ephedrine, worth Rs7 billion. The Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) had allegedly established a direct link between Ali Musa Gilani and the multi-billion drug scandal. Ali Musa Gilani is said to have been issued a show cause notice on March 22. Ali Musa Gilani left the country for South Africa, before his name could be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) for his alleged role in the scandal. He is expected to travel to the UK too.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the PPMA said ephedrine was instead a very useful drug derived from the plant of the Ephedra Genus, including E. Sinica and others, which have traditionally been used by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal purposes, including treatment of asthma, fever, and the common cold.
It further said that ephedrine was a decongestant and bronchodilator which works by reducing swelling, constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages and widening the lung airways, allowing the person to breathe more easily.
Every cough and cold mixture has ephedrine as one of the ingredients which is useful especially during winter, when the common cold and cough are common.
The PPMA statement, highlighting the controversial drug’s other benefits, further said that it was also used to treat certain sleep disorders(narcolepsy), menstrual problems (dysmenorrhea), or urine-control problems (incontinence or enuresis).
"Imagine the plight of the patients if ephedrine based preparations disappear from the market, as for some conditions, there is no alternative," the statement said.
Ephedrine use and abuse
Ephedrine is often abused for its stimulant qualities. As a phenylethylamine, ephedrine also has a similar chemical structure to amphetamines. Because of this similarity, it can be used to create methamphetamine using a chemical reduction. This makes ephedrine a highly sought-after chemical precursor in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine use has a high association with depression and suicide as well as heart disease, psychosis, anxiety and violent behaviours. Methamphetamine also has a very high addiction risk.
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