Codiene addiction in Malawi spikes, forces regulator to step in


The Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board (PMPB) has issued a stern warning to practitioners to refrain from selling Pethidine and Codeine off the counter after receiving reports of excessive misuse and abuse.

The two are used in the preparation of cough syrup but have in recent years been increasingly taken with a mix of Sprite to produce what the youth call 'Lean' in order to get high quickly.

To clamp down on the misuse, Registrar and Chief Executive of PMPB Dr Moses Chisale has issued a directive that all purchases and sells records should be kept for inspection while warning that wholesalers authorised by the board to import should only sell to authorised institutions and pharmacies.

Private clinics, hospitals and retail pharmacies have also been included on the list to have records of prescriber’s details including names, phone contact registrations number and physical address to keep track.

“The board therefore advises all health care delivery institutions and PMPB regulated institution that are duly authorised to warehouse, import, sale, distribute and dispense these medicines to exercise strict control measure when supplying, prescribing and dispensing them as prescribed by the law.

“Copies of prescription must be kept and produced whenever requested by PMPB inspectors,” Chisale said.

The register has also strongly demanded that codeine prescription should be limited to 100 milliliters a bottle at a time.

He also urged practitioners to  prescribe alternatives medication that not to have codeine.

In 2018 the usage of codeine among the youth skyrocketed at parties and clubs to the effect Hip Hop artist Toast started a campaign aimed at spreading the message on the dangers of the drugs.

Codeine dependency
The picture above shows the dangers of codeine dependency

Doctors say codeine, a derivative of opium is meant to relieve coughing and pain and is not suitable for long-term use as it can cause dependence as illustrated below:


In West Africa, Nigeria's drugs authority in February 2018 imposed a total ban on the importation of codeine. The directive was meant to curb an addiction crisis exposed in a BBC undercover film.