File picture: Patrick Sison/AP Photo.

PRETORIA - The SA Pharmacy Council (SAPC) on Wednesday said it is alarmed at the misuse and abuse of medicines in South Africa, and appealed to the general public to use medicines wisely.

"Abuse of over-the-counter, and prescription medication is a cause of various health problems, addiction and disruption of the social lives of the young and old, with 2 percent of the respondents in the SA Demographic and Health Survey indicating abuse of codeine-containing medicines," said Professor Mano Chetty president of SAPC.

Improper use and abuse of medicines also results in hundreds of deaths and drug-resistant illnesses.

The regulator of the pharmacy profession, the SAPC, has called on the public to use medicines wisely to ensure that medicines work as intended, and to avoid complications that may occur as a result of misuse.

September is set aside as "Pharmacy Month", and throughout this month, pharmacists and other pharmacy professionals across the country will be embarking on an awareness drive around the safe use and storage of medicines in line with the 2018 theme of Pharmacy Month: “Towards Quality Care Together – Use medicines wisely”.  

Pharmacy Month, observed every September, is an initiative of the national department of health, which is executed in partnership with the SAPC and other stakeholders in the pharmacy profession.

Recently, the results of the South African Demographic and Health Survey revealed "concerning" statistics in relation to the abuse of over-the-counter codeine-containing medicines. 

According to the results, 2 percent of those surveyed indicated that they consumed codeine-containing medicines “for the experience or feeling rather than the medicinal effect”. 

The prevalence of abuse was higher in urban areas, and amongst women of age groups 35-44 years and 65 years and older. 

In addition to disrupting an addict’s social and work life, codeine addiction can result in seizures, liver and kidney damage, depression, anxiety and even death.

Chetty said the unintended addiction to over-the-counter and prescription medicines can be avoided if patients consult their pharmacists on the safe use of self-medication, and to seek advice on the adverse effects, storage requirements and efficacy of medicines.

“For the patient to ensure that they benefit from the intended therapeutic benefits of each medicine, it is imperative that they consult their pharmacist and disclose information such as other medicines they are taking – be they traditional or pharmaceutical,” says Chetty.

The unsafe use of medication and non-adherence to dosage and storage instructions do not only pose the risk of eroding medicine integrity but may also result in complications that may be fatal. 

According to the SAPC, the creation of drug-resistant super-illnesses that are hard to treat such as drug-resistant gonorrhoea, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and some forms of influenza sometimes occurs when patients do not follow prescription instructions or when they follow improper treatment. 

“Pharmacy Month gives all of us in pharmacy an opportunity to remind patients across the country that the misuse of medicines – whether intentional or not – may cause death and that instructions from their healthcare practitioner should be followed without deviation,” added SA Pharmacy Council chief executive Amos Masango.

African News Agency (ANA)