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Medicines watchdog to review laxative OTC sales over eating disorder ‘concerns’

The UK’s medicines watchdog is undertaking a review of OTC stimulant laxatives, following ‘concerns’ over their use by people with eating disorders.

The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is currently reviewing the ‘safety’ of OTC stimulant laxatives, looking at the ‘overuse in people with eating disorders and long-term use in the elderly and children’.

An MHRA spokesperson told Pulse's sister title the Pharmacist that it anticipates the review to take a few ‘months’ and has not yet set a date for its release.

The spokesperson said: ‘We’re reviewing the safety of stimulant laxatives, following concerns about the potential for abuse and misuse, and considering how regulatory measures can best support their correct use in line with current clinical guidance.

‘All medicines, including those bought OTC, must be used responsibly and as advised in the information provided with the medicine.

‘Patient safety is our highest priority and we work to make sure the benefits of medicines outweigh the risks. This includes assessing whether regulatory action is needed to minimise the potential for abuse.’

In 2012, a survey by the eating disorder charity Beat found that of 158 people with an eating disorder who had used laxatives as part of their routine, 84% had bought them OTC. The survey also showed that 67% developed an addiction or dependency to the medicines.

The MHRA did not specify what products and measures it will look at.

‘The review is ongoing and we would not want to prejudge the outcome,’ the watchdog’s spokesperson added.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse's sister title the Pharmacist.

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