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MHRA warning on over-the-counter medicines addiction

By Lilian Anekwe

The packaging of over-the-counter medicines containing codeine and dihydrocodeine is to be amended to warn of the risks of addiction and overuse.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced today that following recent advice from the government's scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, the packaging will carry a ‘clear and prominently positioned warning' about the risk of addiction, advising patients not to take the drugs for longer than three days.

Revised guidance on the use of the products will ‘focus on treating moderate pain not relieved by simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen'.

Large packs of effervescent codeine containing products will no longer be sold in pharmacies, but will be available on prescription only. Packs containing up to 32 tablets remain available for sale through a pharmacy.

MHRA director of vigilance and risk management of medicines, Dr June Raine, said the action was taken in parallel with the Department of Health's review of policy on addiction to prescription and OTC medicines.

‘These products can be addictive and we are taking action to tackle this risk. The MHRA is ensuring that people have clear information on codeine containing medicines on what they are to be used for and how to minimise the risk of addiction. Anyone who has concerns should speak to their pharmacist or a doctor.'

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