Purchasing Over The Counter (OTC) Medicinal Products Containing Codeine - Easy Access, Advertising, Misuse and Perceptions of Medicinal Risk

John S.G. Wells, Michael Bergin, Marie Claire Van Hout, Pádraig Mc Guinness, Jaco De Pleissis, Eileen Rich, Siphokazi Dada, Richard Wells, Martina Gooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose. Codeine containing medicines can carry a number of health risks associated with the increase in reported misuse and dependence, however they are still readily available over the counter (OTC) in many countries. The aim of this novel study was to report on the results of a survey of customers purchasing OTC codeine containing medicinal products at pharmacies in Ireland, South Africa and England; exploring use, sources of knowledge and perception of risks. Methods. The study design was an exploratory cross sectional survey. It involved a customer self-administered questionnaire at the point of purchase (n=1230). Relationships between categorical variables were analysed using Pearson chi-square for bivariate analysis. Continuous scale variables were analysed using one way analysis of variance. Results. In Ireland 6% stated they purchased codeine containing products weekly, in South Africa 13% and in England 16%. In Ireland and England women are more likely to view codeine containing products as harmful. In England older adults are more likely to perceive codeine containing products as harmful. A higher proportion of customers in South Africa opposed restricting codeine containing products to prescription only when compared with people in Ireland and England. Conclusions. Codeine containing products are widely purchased and used in all three jurisdictions. Whilst the majority of customers appear to have some awareness and knowledge of risks, it does not materially impact on their purchasing behaviour with a substantial minority purchasing/using such products on a weekly basis. This regularity of purchase whilst indicative of the popularity of such products, may also be a potential indicator of misuse. Future research is needed in relation to cultural and gendered differences and targeted information giving and harm reduction initiatives for safe usage of these medicinal products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-295
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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