A study of medical professionals’ perspectives on medicines containing codeine in South Africa

  • Michelle Foley
  • Tara Carney
  • Eileen Rich
  • Siphokazi Dada
  • Chrisitne Mburu
  • Charles Parry


Background: Misuse of codeine available on prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) has been highlighted as a potential problem in South Africa.

Objective: To examine the perceptions of medical professionals regarding codeine use (prescribed and OTC), misuse, dependence and treatment options in South Africa.

Method: Data for the study were obtained using a sample of medical professionals obtained through random and convenience sampling. A quantitative methodology was employed using a structured self-administered questionnaire with closed and open-ended items. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS version 21; 238 medical professionals involved in the prescribing of codeine completed the questionnaire.

Results: Two-thirds of participants stated that they routinely reviewed patients prescribed codeine, and high levels of concern were expressed about the availability of OTC medicine containing codeine in pharmacies (84.9%) and on the internet (71.3%). There was agreement that medicines containing codeine should be regulated to a prescription-only medicine (85.3%). Only 22% of participants agreed that they had suitable screening methods to help with detection of codeine dependence. Eighty per cent indicated that they would welcome the opportunity for greater instruction on prescribing potentially addictive medicines.

Conclusion: There appears to be a need to improve education on consumption and risks associated with codeine use. In addition, screening tools are needed to detect those with codeine dependence. Greater data sources are now needed to examine the sale of and consumption of codeine medicines in the interest of public health.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685