Promethazine With Codeine Discontinued Over Abuse

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Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Popular music, TV, movies, and celebrities can unfortunately glorify the use of drugs, including prescription medications, and prescription drugs are becoming increasingly popular outside of their intended use.

Prescription meds are effective and reliable if taken correctly, but they can be dangerous if abused. Recently, pharmaceutical company Actavis decided to pull their very popular prescription-only cough and cold medication, promethazine with codeine syrup, off the market. The discontinuation of this product is due to the popularity of its recreational use.

What is promethazine with codeine syrup actually used to treat?

Promethazine with codeine syrup is indicated for the temporary relief of coughs and upper respiratory tract symptoms related to allergies or the common cold.

What is promethazine used for?

Promethazine is an antihistamine, similar to products available over-the-counter like Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra. Antihistamines are typically used to treat the symptoms associated with the allergies and the common cold—they help reduce inflammation and swelling and dry up excess secretions, for example, watery eyes and runny nose. Promethazine is also used to treat pain, nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, and sedation.

What is codeine used for?

Codeine is an opioid analgesic which is typically used to help relieve pain. It is also an antitussive, meaning that it can be used to help relieve coughing.

What are the common side effects of promethazine with codeine?

Some common side effects associated with promethazine with codeine syrup include: drowsiness, dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, blurred vision, upset stomach, nausea, constipation, increased sweating, and dry mouth.

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How is promethazine with codeine being used recreationally?

The syrup is typically being mixed with soft drinks and then consumed as a drink, in much higher quantities than the usual prescribed dose.

What are the common street names for this medication?

The combination is often known by names such as purple drank, lean, sizzurp, syrup, purp, and others.

Do other companies still make this medication?

Yes. There are 4 other pharmaceutical companies that currently make this medication:

Do any other companies plan to discontinue their promethazine with codeine?

Currently, no other pharmaceutical companies have stepped up to discontinue or change their current products. Actavis may have started a trend, although currently this is considered a bold and unprecedented decision according to statement made by the pharmaceutical company.

For more information and the statement from Actavis, check out this article on the discontinuation as well.

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