Catholic doctors have asked the Indonesian government to launch a crackdown and stop abuse
of paracetamol caffeine carisoprodol (PCC) pills. At least two children died and 76 others were hospitalized on the island of Sulawesi last week after taking the medication. Many of them lost consciousness. There has been a trend for teenagers to treat the pills as a 'recreational' drug as well as for people to take high dosages to relieve pain. Police have arrested dozens of suspected dealers of the illegal medication in Kendari, capital of Southeast Sulawesi province. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Police on Sept. 18-19 also confiscated more than 100,000 pills from several locations and closed down factories that produced them in Central and West Java. "The drugs are illegal," Health Minister Nila Moeloek said. Despite being illegal, the pills are widely distributed in many parts of Indonesia through drugstores and markets, ostensibly to relieve pain, including from headaches and toothaches. They can commonly be purchased for just US$2 for 20 pills. "The government should stop its distribution," said Doctor Felix Gunawan, director of Association of Voluntary Health Services of Indonesia, an association of Catholic hospitals. He also called on Catholic hospitals to buy drugs only from official vendors certified by the government's National Agency of Drug and Food Control. "Patients who want to buy medicinal drugs must have a prescription from medical doctors," he told ucanews.com on Sept. 20. Doctor Marius Widjajarta, chairman of the Indonesian Health Consumer Empowerment Foundation, said PCC pills do not contain narcotics. However, large doses could cause convulsions, hallucinations and other dangerous side effects.
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In Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, last week people had apparently consumed much more than the recommended dosage. Agnes Mariani, 47, a housewife, said many illegal and expired drugs are circulating in Indonesia. Police needed to regularly raid drugstores, she told ucanews.com. Jessica Aprilia, 16, a senior high school student in Central Jakarta, said she was frightened when seeing victims of the pills on television. "Anyone can become a victim," she said.