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You will now require a doctor's note to buy some painkillers and cough syrups, says poisons board

By Graham Kajilwa | Published Wed, January 10th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 9th 2018 at 22:44 GMT +3
[Photo: Courtesy]

In summary

  • New rules to control use of painkillers and syrups
  • Drugs containing codeine, a sleep-inducing property, have come into sharp focus
  • The poisons board says the order is meant to counter any risks of overuse and addiction as witnessed among some Kenyans

You will now require a doctor's note to buy some painkillers and cough syrups.

The Government on Tuesday said some drugs would no longer be purchased over the counter because they contained addictive ingredients and were overused.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) on Tuesday said drugs with codeine, a sleep-inducing property, are among medicines doctors must prescribe if patients are to have access to them.

In a notice sent out yesterday, the board said the directive must be fully complied with by June.

"This is meant to minimise the risk of overuse and addiction that has been witnessed in the country," read the notice.

“In this regard, they will no longer be sold in a pharmacies or chemists without a valid prescription from a duly registered medical practitioner,” read the notice signed by PPB Registrar Fred Siyoi and addressed to drug dispensers and the general public.

Six months

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Dr Siyoi gave all pharmacies and other outlets that dispense and market drugs six months to re-brand the packaging of medicines with codeine ingredients to include the stated precautions.

The precautions include a patient information leaflet that explains the risks of addiction and why the medicine should not be taken for more than three days.

Siyoi said this information should be clear with prominently positioned warnings on the label and a summary of product characteristics.

“Please note that no refill will be allowed for prescriptions with medicines that contain codeine,” said Siyoi.

"Money will therefore not be the only determining factor for buying such medicine," he said.

"Pharmacists selling the drug will need full names of the patient, with address and age, name of the doctor or medical practitioner who prescribed the drug, with address and registration number in the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board list."

Other details required are medicine name, strength and dosage form, quantity prescribed and signature of the practitioner using indelible ink.

“All prescribers and dispensers should not offer, for sale, any medicine that contains codeine without a valid prescription from a duly registered medical practitioner,” said Siyoi.

Paul Mwaniki, a pharmacist, said: "One of the most abused drugs with codeine, which is a common remedy for tension headaches, is Betapyn. But due to its euphoric addiction, giving users a feeling of being high and happy, many people find hard to stick to restricted dosage.” 

Dr Mwaniki said drugs with codeine should not be used for more than three days.

“Many such drugs may be in the upmarket outlets but their generic versions are still available in local shops and chemists.”

It could take a patient between 15 and 30 minutes to feel the effect of drugs with codeine. The drugs can stay in the body for up to seven hours and leave the user feeling relief normally interpreted as being high.

Pain medication says codeine is an opioid pain medication that makes it work the same way as narcotics. It says while these drugs may be used to treat moderately severe pain, they may also be used for other unspecified purposes.

The website warns that one should not use the medicine if they have severe breathing problems, a blockage in the stomach or intestines or frequent asthma attacks or hyperventilation.

“Codeine can slow or stop your breathing, and may be habit-forming. Misuse of this medicine can cause addiction or death, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without prescription,” it warns.

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