Public needs prescription to buy painkillers


The pharmaceutical industry has expressed disappointment in the new requirement which compels the general public to acquire a doctor’s prescription to buy painkillers that contain codeine over the counter.


This new condition took effect on 1 January 2019.


Codeine is an opioid pain medication used to treat mild to moderately severe pain.


The Villager received confirmation from pharmacies in Walvis Bay and Windhoek that they have already put that into effect although they are not impressed by the decision.


A Windhoek pharmacist who refused to be named said the decision is “uninformed” as qualified pharmacists should be able to prescribe simple medication to treat headaches and other minor symptoms without sending a patient to get a doctor’s prescription, as pharmacists are also trained professionals.


She added that it is not clear where the decision was made and that no formal communication was made to pharmacies but that they have all been updated to enforce the new requirement.


This means that most pharmacies will only be able to sell paracetamol (panado) to people looking to treat mild, moderate and severe pain with over the counter medication, without a prescription.


The public will now have to book a consultation with a doctor for a prescription to treat conditions such as headaches caused by migraines and others.


Another pharmacy in Walvis Bay hinted that the new requirement was necessitated by cases of codeine overdose.

This was confirmed by the ministry’s written response to The Villager in which it said the up-scheduling was triggered by concerns of potential misuse and abuse.


“As per the government gazette number 6749 of 31 October 2018, all codeine containing medicine that were previously in schedule 1, have been up-scheduled to schedule 2. This means codeine containing medicines can no longer be obtained over the counter but only on a prescription,” Health’s permanent secretary Ben Nangombe said in the response.


Among the listed medications which are no longer available without a prescription are, Adcodol, BetaPyn, Gen Payne, Lenapain, Syndol, Tensopyn, Pholtex, and others.


The ministry said that in making this decision the council (NMRC) also took into account the availability of safe and effective alternatives not containing codeine, which may be used over-the-counter (OTC).


“The decision was also in line with international practices regarding codeine containing products that are aimed at restricting the use of codeine,” Nangombe said.