Nonprescription codeine is readily available on shelves at pharmacies and most grocery stores in Canada. If Health Canada has anything to say about it, that will be changing in the near future. These sorts of products have been associated with pharmaceutical liability lawsuits across the country. Codeine can be found in many products, including pain medication and cough syrups. Health Canada is promising to make them available by a doctor's prescription only.
The government body said 600 million tablets with a low dose of codeine were sold across the country in 2015. More than 500 individuals sought treatment for addiction in Ontario treatment centres between 2007 and 2015. They cited nonprescription codeine as the only substance they used.
As it stands, Canadians can purchase products containing low doses of codeine -- a maximum of 8 milligrams of codeine in one pill as long as the products contain two other medications like caffeine or acetaminophen. The products are available without a prescription but must be kept behind counters where their sales can be monitored for potential abuse. Most often, however, pharmacists simply ask a customer if he or she has used the medicine before without a prescription, since the pharmacist isn't aware of the customer's drug history.
In recent years, two manufacturers have stopped selling nonprescription codeine products. Manitoba stopped selling the products over-the-counter altogether last year, despite the products being top sellers. Codeine works by metabolizing in the body as morphine -- a drug notorious for causing dependency. If these over-the-counter products are taken in large doses, harmful side effects could ensue, causing damage to the liver from the acetaminophen contained in the drugs.
These are the types of situations that have resulted in pharmaceutical liability claims in Canada. Those who believe they have been harmed by a drug would be well advised to talk to a lawyer experienced in litigation and appeals law. A lawyer would be able to guide his or her client on whether to launch a suit for any resulting damages caused by the product.
Source: CBC News, "Health Canada moves to ban non-prescription codeine sales", Dean Beeby, Sept. 12, 2017