The government must ensure that medicines containing a “controlled substance” are sold only after the buyer produces a prescription by a doctor, pharmacists, doctors and drug manufacturers agree.
Pharmacists say certain drugs are used by addicts for ‘recreational purposes’.
According to Health Department officials, most of the people who have died after taking cough syrups Tyno and Dextromethorphan in Lahore and Gujranwala have been drug addicts. “All those who died after taking the syrups were chronic drug-users,” the officials said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Professor Mubasher Ahmad, PhD in Pharmacology from Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University of Wales, UK, and College of Pharmacy faculty member, said the government should ensure there was a qualified pharmacist at every private pharmacy. “In developed countries, a qualified pharmacist guides patients on how to use a medicine and what could happen in case of overdose,” he said.
“In Pakistan, a majority of people cannot read what’s written on the medicine bottle. They need to be informed what amount of a medicine can be harmful. All medicines cannot be restricted to prescription as many poor people take medicines directly from pharmacies as they cannot afford to consult a doctor. Medicines that have controlled substances, however, shouldn’t be sold out without a prescription,” he said.
“People should have firsthand information about the medicine. Many drug addicts use cough syrups, but, in some cases, other patients may also overdose themselves hoping to get early relief. They should be informed how much they are safe using,” he said.
He said a bronchodilator used in many cough syrups triggered drowsiness. He said dextromethorphan, which soothed the brain, was also used in preparing many cough syrups. Community Medicine Assistant Professor Shahid Malik said pharmacies were not supposed to sell medicine having controlled substances without seeing a prescription, but things in practice were different. He said the Health Department should monitor pharmacies more closely.
Punjab Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA) Export Committee Chairman Dr Riaz Ahmad said dextromethorphan was present in many cough syrups. He said it was not a controlled substance in Pakistan but was enlisted in many countries as a controlled substance.
Health Executive District Officer (EDO) Captain (retd) Inamul Haq said there were no controlled substances in the two syrups suspected of having caused the death.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2013.