Statement on the reclassification of codeine linctus

Commenting on the reclassification of codeine linctus, Roz Gittins, Chief Pharmacy Officer and Deputy Registrar at the GPhC, said:

"We welcome the decision by the MHRA to reclassify codeine linctus to a prescription-only medicine. 

We think this important change will help to protect public safety. Codeine linctus, which can be used for a dry cough, is well-known to be associated with problematic use.

Through our inspections and other work, we have identified significant concerns about the supply of codeine linctus as a pharmacy medicine by a small minority of pharmacies.

Since July 2020 we have taken enforcement action against over 50 pharmacy premises. The majority of these were following intelligence-led inspections relating to unusually high levels of ordering of codeine linctus by pharmacies. Our unannounced inspections identified that appropriate safeguards were not always in place to ensure sales were managed safely and appropriately. There were often insufficient controls to prevent inappropriate or repeat sales or to identify trends in requests.

The intelligence we used to inform our inspection approach included data supplied by wholesalers which helped us to identify pharmacies purchasing particularly high quantities of codeine linctus.

We urge all pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals to make sure the whole pharmacy team is aware of the change to a prescription-only medicine, and are familiar with the drug safety alert issued by the MHRA. Any current stock of codeine linctus should be treated as a prescription only medicine with immediate effect. 

Where the pharmacy has identified that an individual is using codeine linctus in a problematic way, it remains imperative that the pharmacy appropriately signposts them to the support they may require such as to their local drug treatment service provider or GP."