Pharmacies peddling cough mixture

An undercover operation by Maritzburg Sun has revealed that some pharmacies have a ”no questions asked policy” and freely sell the schedule two drug to youth who walk in off the street. The newspaper deployed a team of journalists to visit several pharmacies around the CBD to try and buy the cough mixture which is mixed with softdrinks to give the user a cheap quick high.
A pharmacy situated a walking distance away from two schools openly sold four bottles of BronCleer to the reporters without requesting any details. By law pharmacies must record details of the transaction in a register to track patient use of the medication as a means of identifying substance abuse. This pharmacy not only did not record the details of the transaction but the sales’ attendant asked our reporters to “keep the bottles hidden” as they exited the facility.
In another pharmacy all that was needed was to walk in, raise two fingers, hand over the required cash and walk out with two bottles of codeine-based cough syrup without even a word being uttered, let alone any verification being done.
A parent who recently visited the same pharmacy on a Friday evening said he was shocked to see youngsters streaming in and purchasing the cough syrup without any questions being raised.
“It was incredulous how these teenagers walked in, just handed over the money and were given the bottles of cough syrup. These are health professionals who take an oath to serve humanity that are guilty of turning our youth into a generation of addicts. At what expense are they profiteering? They would not allow it to happen to their children so why do that to somebody else’s child,” questioned the parent.

Broncleer, also known as “Bronco”, costs between R17- R25 and contains codeine, which is an opiate painkiller commonly used to treat pain, giving effects of calmness, sedation and “swooning euphoria. These effects last from three to six hours. Given the high levels of abuse some pharmacies have refused to stock the medication.
Recently Royal Hospital Pharmacy announced the medication’s ban and launched an awareness campaign to help stamp out the abuse of the cough mixture. Medical manager Merle Williams said the decision to launch the #BCMustFall campaign was a bid to educate children and parents about how widespread the abuse of the medication was becoming and the dangers it posed to children.
“We are appealing to our families, children, other pharmacies and government to take a stand against this growing addiction. We need pharmacists to conduct ethical business and we need government to regulate these dangerous products more rigorously,” said Williams.
Meanwhile another city pharmacist has revealed how lucrative the illicit trade in Broncleer is.
“A bottle of BronCleer wholesales for around R11 a bottle which is then sold for nearly double the cost. These pharmacists who supply the addicts know that these products are being abused and therefore take advantage of this fact by charging exorbitant prices and end up profiteering,” said the pharmacist.
Pharmacies have been urged to keep a register for those purchasing codeine containing products.
A local drug-addiction specialist has warned that codeine-based addiction is on the rise. Dr Ayo Fatokun from the Break-Through Addiction Centre said that the culture of misusing codeine containing syrups was rapidly growing. He said he had treated patients, as young as 13, who are strugglingwith the addiction.
The Department of Health is also alarmed at the situation and have launched several investigations. Provincial spokesperson Samuel Mkhwanazi said while the department appreciated the fact that most professionals conducted ethical dispensary businesses investigations have been launched into others that continue flouting regulations.
“Investigations are pending as the abuse of medication is a problem, but as the department we appeal to all pharmacies to distribute medication in an honest and legal manner,” said Mkhwanazi.
He said Section 22A (2) of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965, (Act 101 of 1965) stipulates that addictive medication should be properly regulated which includes the keeping of proper records.


Bongeka Sibisi

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