The medicinal safety regulator of the U.K is now raising concerns about the addictive qualities and health hazards caused by the over-the-counter availability of codeine linctus and cough syrup. Therefore, it wishes to receive feedback from the public on reclassifying this substance into a prescription-only medicine as a result of the increasing numbers of abuse and addiction reports linked to codeine medicines.
Pharmacies are also expressing their worries regarding the overdose risk that accompanies the product, with codeine linctus being an oral solution that contains codeine phosphate, frequently sold as an antitussive alternative in such establishments. Moreover, some people have been using codeine linctus for its opioid effects, adding to their dependency on pain-relieving medication.
It is thus evident that new measures must be implemented promptly in order to protect individuals from succumbing to the problems associated with drug abuse. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has therefore declared its intention to implement more stringent regulations when it comes to obtaining access to codeine linctus and cough syrup in order to prevent further cases of misuse.
The MHRA, the UK medical regulator, has raised concerns over the misuse and abuse of codeine linctus, an effective medicine but also an opioid. The increasing reports of criminal activities linked to this medicine have become a cause for alarm in the last five years.
Amid mounting evidence of recreational drug abuse, dependence, and/or withdrawal from codeine medicines, including codeine linctus, the MHRA received 116 such reports since 2018; 2021 alone witnessed 277 serious and fatal adverse reactions to medicines containing codeine. With 95 similar cases already reported this year, the regulator decides to launch a consultation to take health professionals’ and members of the public’s views on making the medicine available only through a GP’s prescription.
Reacting positively to this move, pharmacists remarked that there was “insufficient robust evidence” regarding the benefits of codeine linctus as a safe cough treatment. In light of such worrying facts, it remains to be seen if these measures can curb the misuses of codeine linctus and protect communities from associated health risks and criminal activities.
Experts are concerned with the potential misuse and high risk of addiction and overdose linked to the painkiller codeine. Professor Claire Anderson, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, urged people to use non-codeine alternative medicines for dry coughs which would likely subside on its own over time.
Studies have suggested that up to 60% of people worldwide may be vulnerable to opioid dependence. In India, some Indian-made cough syrups were infamously connected to a series of deaths in The Gambia and Uzbekistan, prompting the government to demand pre-export testing of all cough syrup products.
Codeine is an opiate which works by blocking pain signals that travel through the central nervous system and brain, while simultaneously reducing distress caused by pain. However, codeine can be habit-forming so it should not be taken for more than a few weeks without medical advice. Additionally, children under 12 should only be given codeine if it is recommended by a doctor.
The public consultation regarding codeine lictus runs until August 15 2023. It is essential that citizens stay informed on the dangers associated with codeine in order to protect their wellbeing and safety.