SOUTH AFRICA—The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and other health professional regulators have taken proactive measures to curb codeine  misuse, particularly among young people, through the Codeine Care Initiative.

This initiative aims to meticulously track the supply chain of the drug, from manufacturers to end-users, enabling health workers to intervene effectively.

This initiative will force pharmacies and other bodies that dispense medicine to digitally record the identity numbers of people who have been given medications, such as codeine, which is used for pain relief and other cough mixtures.

“The initiative aims to ensure that all persons who are dispensed codeine medicine are recorded on a system that is available across pharmacies and other dispensaries to curb pharmacy hopping, clinic hopping or doctor hopping by persons who abuse codeine,” SAHPRA’s spokesperson Madimetja Mashishi explained

He went on to say that the initiative also aims to ensure that people are only dispensed the legal limit to assist with various ailments, including coughs and pain management.

Echoing Mashashi’s remarks, Dr. Sham Moodley, chair of a multistakeholder forum on codeine misuse, emphasized the significance of this initiative, stating, “If you are able to track sales from manufacturer to patient, we would then be able to identify where the leakage is occurring.”

Dr. Moodley proposed a mandatory initiative that would digitally record patient ID numbers during codeine purchases, enabling centralized monitoring to flag excessive usage across different dispensaries to ensure accountability across the codeine supply chain, from manufacturers to retailers.

On her part, Nthabi Moloi, SAHPRA’s communications officer, expressed deep concerns regarding its misuse, particularly among the younger population.

Moloi underscored the seriousness of codeine abuse, citing potential health complications and fatal overdoses.

The concept for the Codeine Care Initiative originated in the early 2010s, initiated by the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa, highlighting the collaborative effort among stakeholders to address this pressing issue.

Codeine, an opioid present in certain pain relief medications and cough mixtures, is frequently abused, especially among youth.

With this new development, SAHPRA is developing new guidelines to regulate codeine usage, which are slated for public review in June.

The Codeine Care Initiative represents a crucial step towards addressing codeine abuse comprehensively, safeguarding public health, and curbing the illicit use of this potent drug.

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