IDs required at pharmacies

By Drum Digital
05 April 2014

Are you rushing to the pharmacy with a sick child? Remember, under a new ruling that came into effect on 1 February you now have to provide your ID number when buying any product containing codeine.

In other countries you need a prescription to buy medicine containing codeine but in South Africa products such as Myprodol, Benylin and Sinutab, which all contain codeine, can still be bought without one.

This new requirement hasn’t become law but has been initiated by the Community Pharmacist Sector (CPS) which represents about 80 per cent of South Africa’s pharmacists and is a division of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (PSSA). The requirement is aimed at protecting both patients and pharmacists, says the association’s president, Dr Johann Kruger.

“In South Africa we are still fortunate enough that the use of codeine, which is a very effective substance, is available to consumers easily and at low cost,” he says. But there are problems associated with the drug, such as potential abuse. The aim of this project is to minimise the problem without having to resort to making codeine a prescription medicine.”

The new rule involves doctors, manufacturers, wholesalers and chain stores such as Clicks and Dis-Chem, as well as people who maintain the pharmacies’ software, as the amount of codeine linked to your ID number is loaded onto a national database.

Pharmacies need your consent to use your ID number but are also bound by a confidentiality clause stating they may not see or share confidential information, which is why they only have access to the amount of codeine linked to your ID number and nothing else.

“This means that if you for instance unwittingly buy a cough syrup that contains codeine and the next day you buy a painkiller that also contains the substance your pharmacist can warn you not to take the two medications at the same time or possibly suggest a medicine that doesn’t contain codeine,” Kruger says.

The limit for codeine use is set at 4 g a month which is much higher than that found in a cough syrup and a painkiller or two, so the chemist won’t stop you from buying the two products as mentioned in the above example. A warning will however appear on the system once you’ve reached your limit.

Kruger says the rule applies to all chemists and the CPS is currently running an awareness campaign among its members and independent pharmacists.

He adds the secret for the safe use of medication isn’t to make it a law that codeine can be acquired only with a prescription but rather to inform patients and ensure there’s sufficient information available. “There should also be a healthy relationship between pharmacists, doctors and consumers.”

For more information about the new ruling call the the Community Pharmacist Sector on 011-728-6668.

- Dalena Theron

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