Making medical sales safer

2020-02-25 06:02
Children in the Cape Flats are being sold schedule 5 tablets for R3.

Children in the Cape Flats are being sold schedule 5 tablets for R3.

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Last year, “lean” – a mixture of codeine-containing cough syrups mixed with a fizzy drink – caused an upset in the Cape Flats as children drank themselves into sedation.

This year, something new has taken ahold of the community’s youth – an anxiolytic sold for R3 on streets (also taken with fizzy drinks) – turning kids as young as seven into zombie.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has said it is not oblivious to the trends in the abuse of certain medications.

“To address these issues, Sahpra’s regulatory compliance division conducts routine inspections around the country to assess whether health professionals are adherent to the regulatory requirements for prescribing and dispensing medicines,” says Yuven Gounden, spokesperson for Sahpra.

He adds that the regulatory body routinely undertakes a review of the risk-benefit profile of marketed medicines to assess whether the licensing of these medicines remains in the public’s interest.

This approach has prompted Sahpra to begin reconsidering the scheduling status of codeine-containing medicines.

“This includes the implementation of education and awareness-building programmes directed at health care professionals as well as consumers or patients on the harms or the adverse effects of opiates, benzodiazepines and the parameters of rational and safe use of these medicines,” Gounden says.

Certain pharmacies have taken drastic measures to stop codeine misuse by no longer retailing codeine-containing cough syrups.

Dr Kiran Ranchod of Steenberg Pharmacy is one such pharmacist. He believes systems need to be put in place to ensure the chains of supply are secured and monitored.

While the regulatory body could not comment on some pharmacists’ decision to refrain from selling over-the-counter cough syrups, Gounden says: “We agree with the sentiment that addressing these challenges requires the implementation of ethical, effective and scientifically sound measures to reduce the abuse and misuse of medicines.”

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