THE Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) has called for a ban on the importation of cough syrups that contain codeine as they are being abused and used as stimulants by those who cannot get high with alcohol. Codeine is generally prescribed by a physician to treat mild-tomoderate levels of pain, manage a pesky cough, and occasionally treat gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea. However, higher doses of codeine activate the reward system of the brain thereby allowing for excessive release of pleasurable hormones.
PSZ president Jerome Kanyika said yesterday in an interview that the society is concerned about the continued sale of codeine products in Zambia over the counter when they are only supposed to be administered to those with a doctor’s prescription. “People are abusing codeine while others are making money out of it when it is not supposed to be the case. Codeine is very addictive and can make a person crave it more all the time,” he said. Mr Kanyika said the abuse of codeine, which makes people high, is on the increase in Zambia .
“So when they realise that they are not what they were feeling when the medicine was working, they want to buy more thereby leading to addiction,” he said. Mr Kanyika said once a person becomes addicted to the medication, they cannot be sane without taking it. “The recent review that came from the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] about the Nigeria situation was very bad. And if we are not careful, that is where we are going as well as Zambia,” he said.
The BBC report revealed that thousands of young people in Nigeria are addicted to codeine. And Zamb ia Med icines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) public relations officer Ludovic Mwape said considerations are being made to either ban the importation of codeine products or restrict it to a prescription-only drug.
Mr Mwape said in Zambia, codeine products are supposed to be sold only in pharmacies and cannot be accessed without a doctor’s prescription. “We are also worried that codeine is being abused and we are considering making recommendations to the technical committee to either ban it completely or restrict the sale,” he said. Meanwhile, Mr Kanyika has called on stakeholders to put in place necessary measures to prevent the entry of inferior drugs on the Zambian market.
“We are calling upon cooperating partners to form alliances with us and undertake an independent countrywide study to ascertain the extent of the problem of counterfeit medicines in Zambia, so as to design relevant interventions to safeguard the public,” Mr Kanyika said. He said trade in counterfeit medicines is sophisticated and requires concerted efforts