UK cough syrup could be restricted to pharmacies due to concerns of addiction

There is a possibility that cough medication and codeine linctus will no longer be accessible over-the-counter due to concerns that they are addictive and can cause serious health problems.

The organization that oversees the quality and safety of medications in the UK is receiving an increasing number of reports of drug abuse and dependence on codeine. It has been suggested that the substance be reclassified as one that can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription due to concerns about its potential for abuse.

In addition to this, pharmacists have voiced their concerns on the potential for an overdose. As a cough suppressant, pharmacies sell a solution or syrup containing codeine phosphate called codeine linctus.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) believes that the rules governing how people obtain it should be tightened due to the fact that some people use it for its opioid effects in order to sustain an addiction to painkillers. Dr. Alison Cave, the MHRA's chief safety officer, stated, "Codeine linctus is an effective medication, but as an opioid, its misuse and abuse can have severe health consequences."

In the last five years, there has been a notable increase in the number of reports of codeine abuse and illicit activity, which is frequently promoted through social media. Since 2018, the MHRA has received 116 reports of dependence, and/or withdrawal involving codeine-containing medications and recreational drug abuse including codeine linctus.

In 2021, there were 277 severe and fatal adverse reactions to codeine-containing medications, followed by 243 in 2022 and 95 thus far in 2023. As a result, the regulator has launched a consultation to solicit feedback from health professionals and members of the general public on restricting access to the medication to those with a doctor's prescription.

Pharmacists applauded the decision, citing "insufficient robust evidence" for the efficacy of codeine linctus in safely treating coughs. Prof. Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, expressed grave concerns regarding the substance's potential for abuse and addiction, as well as its overdose risk.

She stated that many non-codeine based products could be used to treat a dry cough, which would likely resolve on its own. Studies indicate that as much as sixty percent of the global population may be susceptible to opioid dependence.

In India, cough syrups linked to deaths in The Gambia and Uzbekistan have been in the headlines for a different reason. The Indian government has mandated that cough medication manufacturers submit samples for testing prior to exporting their products.

Codeine is an analgesic that belongs to the class of drugs known as opiates. It blocks pain signals from the brain and central nervous system to the rest of the body. It also reduces the anxiety and tension caused by pain. It can be used when other analgesics have failed. If you must take codeine for more than a few weeks, your doctor will instruct you on how and when to discontinue use.

Children under the age of 12 should not be administered codeine unless otherwise directed.