Cough syrup in the UK can only be prescribed by prescription due to addiction concerns

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Linctus cough syrup or codeine is no longer available without a prescription due to concerns that it is addictive and can lead to serious health problems.

Increasing numbers of reports of drug abuse and dependence on codeine medications are being submitted to the UK Medicines Safety Regulatory Authority.

Now she wants opinions on reclassifying it as a prescription drug due to concerns about its misuse.

Pharmacists also say they are concerned about the risks of overdose.

Codeine linctus is an oral solution or syrup containing the ingredient codeine phosphate, which is sold as a cough remedy in pharmacies.

But some people also use it for its opioid effects – to fuel addiction to a pain medication – and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says rules about how people can get it need to be tightened.

“Codeine linctus is a potent drug, but because it is an opioid, its misuse and misuse can have significant health consequences,” said Dr. Allison Keefe, MHRA Chief Safety Officer.

The problem has gotten significantly worse in the past five years, with an increasing number of reports of codeine-related abuse and criminal activity, often promoted via social media.

MHRA says it has received 116 reports of recreational drug use, dependence and/or withdrawal from codeine drugs, including codeine linctus, since 2018.

As a result, the regulator launched an advisory to gather opinions from health professionals and members of the public about making the drug available only when prescribed by a GP.

Pharmacists welcomed the move, saying there was not “enough strong evidence” of the benefits of adhesive codeine to treat coughs safely.

Professor Clare Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We also have significant concerns about its misuse and addiction, as well as the risk of overdose.”

She said there are many products without codeine that people can use for a dry cough, which will likely go away on its own anyway.

Studies show that up to 60% of people worldwide may be at risk for opioid dependence.

Cough medicines are also in the news for a different reason in India, where some cough medicines made there have been linked to deaths in the Gambia and Uzbekistan.

What happens to codeine in the body?

  • Codeine is a pain reliever that is part of a group of medicines called opioids
  • It works in the central nervous system and brain to block pain signals to the rest of the body
  • It also reduces anxiety and stress caused by pain
  • It may be used when other analgesics have not worked
  • It is possible to become addicted to codeine, so if you need to take it for more than a few weeks, your doctor will tell you how and when to stop taking it.
  • Children under 12 years of age should not be given codeine unless otherwise indicated

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