The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) has issued an order to healthcare professionals to advise patients to stop taking pholcodine-containing medicines. Pholcodine, an opioid medication used for the treatment of non-productive cough and cold and flu symptoms, is marketed in Zimbabwe under the brand names Pholtex Plus and Pholtex Forte with registration numbers 2018/22.2.5/5734 and 99/22.2.1/3624, respectively.
The MCAZ’s decision to withdraw pholcodine-containing products from the Zimbabwean market comes after the authority identified a significant safety issue with the medication. Richard Rukwata, MCAZ director general, explained in a statement.
“The use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia with neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) such as suxamethonium and atracurium is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction upon administration of the NMBA,” he said.
To mitigate the risk of anaphylactic reactions, the MCAZ has instructed all licensed pharmaceutical wholesalers, pharmacies, public and private clinics, and hospitals to quarantine all pholcodine-containing products.
Healthcare professionals are also advised to check whether patients scheduled to undergo general anaesthesia with NMBAs have used pholcodine in the previous 12 months.
The UK government has already established a link between pholcodine and an increased risk of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to muscle relaxants (neuromuscular blocking agents) used during general anaesthesia in surgery.
Therefore, patients are advised to stop taking pholcodine-containing medicines and consider appropriate alternatives to treat their symptoms.
With this recent order, the MCAZ seeks to prioritize patient safety and ensure the availability of safe and effective medication to the public.
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