Patients will have to produce their IDs for the purchase of all products that contain codeine, an ingredient used in pain medication.
Details of patients buying codeine will be logged on a nationwide website to curb the misuse of the addictive drug.
Johan Bothma from the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) said the association was approached by doctors and pharmacists who were concerned about the use of codeine.
“We are not only talking about the ‘really addicted’ people, we are worried about people overusing codeine,” he said. He said the database would register each pill that contained codeine and would inform pharmacist when patients had reached their allowed limit.
“There will however be exceptions,” Bothma added.
In the United Arab Emirates codeine is banned. In countries such as the Uniteds States and Greece you need a prescription for all medication containing the drug. Products such as Sinutab, Myprodol and cough medicines like Benylin C contain codeine.
Bothma said the aim was to protect patients from the long-term damage codeine could cause.
“It eventually leads to kidney failure,” he said.
Although it was not known how many people were addicted to codeine Bothma said doctors were reporting more and more instances of kidney failure.
According to Amos Nasango of the South African Pharmacy Council, pharmacies are not obliged to enter the data on the database but all pharmacies that had been approached had agreed to use the database.
“It is a very good initiative. Pharmacies face difficulties when patients jump from one pharmacy to the next. This happens when a person who is addicted changes as soon as their regular supplier denies them the drug. There was no way for the next pharmacy to then know that the person is addicted or overusing the drug,” he said.
Bothma said patients should not use medicine that contained codeine for longer than 10 days.
“If your pain is so severe that you need to continue taking pills, see your doctor so that you can treat the source of the pain, not just mask it,” he said.
He added that patients would have to carry their IDs if they go medicine shopping.
According to Bothma, various doctors have approached the ICPA to create a similar database for sleeping pills and anxiety medication.
“We are looking at adding them to the database,” he said.