The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) has done well to ban over-the-counter sale of cough-relieving medicines containing the addictive ingredient codeine.
The ban announced by the regulator on Tuesday follows investigations last month which revealed widespread abuse of the cough syrup Benylin with codeine in Mandera County.
It means that one will now need a doctor’s prescription to buy these drugs. Mandera’s case is particularly worrying given that people were found to be using high doses of the drug to induce euphoria and drunken feelings rather than relieve cough.
The sharp spike of growth in consumption from 20,000 annually to 430,000 in the 11 months to November 2017 and a link to miraa chewing also raised suspicions. Making the drugs prescription-only is likely to reduce the abuse, and the health and social risks associated with the addiction.
But the PPB will need to step up its inspection and enforcement for the ban to be effective. With the kind of high demand for addictive substances, as demonstrated by the Mandera case, some unscrupulous chemists will no doubt try to exploit any laxity in enforcement to make them available over the counter.
The PPB should also maintain its vigilance to ensure that other medicines don’t get to be abused in this manner.