Health authority moves to clamp down over-the-counter codeine
Durban – THE South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) is calling for codeine medicines to only be accessible through a prescription because of its abuse among the youth for non-medicinal purposes.
Codeine is used to treat pain. However, it has become commonly abused as a cocktail of different codeine mixes and liquids such as a softdrink.
“Sahpra is reviewing the scheduling status of codeine. Once this process has been finalised, Sahpra will communicate such measures, if any,” said spokesperson Yuven Gounden.
He said the authority was concerned about codeine-containing medicines that could be purchased over the counter, but it had not yet specified whether codeine would require a prescription.
Nevertheless, the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) was concerned about Sahpra’s suggested solution to the abuse of codeine-containing medicines.
Jackie Maimin, ICPA chief executive, said the pharmaceutical industry – including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and pharmacies – had met and agreed on a comprehensive proposal for Sahpra on how to better control codeine-containing medicines without reducing access for those who need them.
He declined to elaborate on the proposal as it would be submitted to Sahpra before February 29.
Maimin said research conducted through the SA Demographics and Health survey indicated that about 2% of people who consumed codeine-containing products did so for the experience rather than the intended medicinal effect.
“We are concerned that the remaining 98% of consumers will have less access to these medicines,” Maimin said. “By removing codeine products, a pharmacist is left with paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the patient needs anything stronger they will have to visit their GP who may not be able to see them immediately, or the patient may not have the financial means to pay for the consultation and the medication.”
Maimin said there was no system in place for a pharmacist or doctor to access a patient’s health record, which detailed all medicines dispensed for that particular patient. This, he said, could lead to a pharmacist or doctor prescribing medicine that had a duplication of ingredients.
“To avoid such duplications, a centralised database is essential. It will highlight any duplication of ingredients and avoid the overuse of codeine-containing products. The Codeine Care Initiative will provide the platform and software required to collect the information, which in turn will allow pharmacists to monitor the use of these medicines,” Maimin said.
Meanwhile, Amos Masango, registrar and chief executive of the South African Pharmacy Council, said they had received a request for input from Sahpra, but this request would only be deliberated at a council meeting next week.
“At this meeting a consensus on the proposed up-scheduling of codeine will be reached. Following this we will relay to both Sahpra and the public our stance on this matter, having taken into consideration various factors.”