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Safety fears over ulcer drugs plan

A Government plan to widen availability of proton pump inhibitors has been sharply criticised by a former member of its own medicines watchdog.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, formerly the Medicines Control Agency, issued a consultation document last month on changing the status of omeprazole (Losec) from prescription-only to pharmacy medicine.

It admits safety concerns over the drug's potential to mask serious underlying disease and general underreporting of adverse events in pharmacy but claims any problems can be curbed by limiting dose and pack size.

Professor Hugh McGavock, a former member of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, claimed Losec was 'not a safe drug at all' for pharmacy sales because of the risk of adverse reactions with other drugs, such as warfarin.

Professor McGavock, emeritus professor in prescribing science at the University of Ulster and a former GP, said: 'It may be that the Government's enthusiasm to have licences downgraded to pharmacy-only and then general sales may be driven by the substantial savings made in prescribing costs.'

The H2-receptor antagonists cimetidine, ranitidine and famotidine can all be bought for short-term use without a prescription.

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