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Co-codamol (Kapake, Solpadol, Tylex)

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about the pain killing drug, co-codamol. You can read about

 

What co-codamol is

Co-codamol is a painkiller. It is a combination of two drugs – paracetamol and codeine.

Paracetamol controls pain by interfering with substances that the body makes in response to injury. These substances are called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins make nerves more sensitive, so you feel pain. By reducing the amount of prostaglandin you feel less pain, or none at all.

Codeine is a type of opioid. There are different types of opioids – strong ones and weak ones. Codeine is a weak opioid. Opioids work by mimicking the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins. They control pain by blocking pain messages to the brain.

You have co-codamol for moderate pain. Doctors often prescribe it to relieve pain after surgery. You can find out more about cancer and pain control in our section about coping physically with cancer.

Co-codamol is available in different doses. They all contain 500mg of paracetamol (the same as one regular paracetamol tablet or capsule) but the dose of codeine varies and can be 8mg, 15mg or 30 mg. The dose that is right for you will depend on the amount you need to control your pain. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to take co-codamol and how much to have. The normal dose for adults is 1 or 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours. The maximum you should take is 8 in 24 hours.

Remember that you shouldn’t take any other paracetamol containing tablets or capsules while you are taking co-codamol.

 

How you take co-codamol

Co-codamol is available as a

  • Tablet that you swallow with water
  • Capsule that you swallow with water
  • Soluble tablet (effervescent or dispersible) that you dissolve in water

There are several brand names for co-codamol including Solpadol, Tylex and Kapake. You can buy small packets of the lower dose preparations over the counter. But for larger packets and for the higher doses, you need a prescription from your doctor.

 

Common side effects

More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.

  • Constipation – your doctor may give you laxatives to help prevent this but do tell them if you are constipated for more than 3 days
  • Drowsiness may be a problem at first, but usually wears off after a few days
  • Feeling or being sick happens in some people but is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines
 

Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.

  • A skin rash
  • Dizziness
  • A dry mouth
  • Narrowing of the pupils in your eyes
  • Griping pain in your stomach – if you have this and haven’t opened your bowels for a few days tell your doctor
 

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these.

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Slowing of the heart beat or palpitations – tell your doctor or nurse as you may need a lower dose of co-codamol
  • A drop in blood pressure
 

Important points to remember

The side effects above may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse as you continue to take co-codamol. It may depend on 

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are having

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so that they can help you manage them. They can give advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies – some drugs can react together.

 

More information about this drug

This information does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk.

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at www.mhra.gov.uk.

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Updated: 15 March 2013