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MPs criticise prescription plan for flu remedies

Committee questions whether move is best option


Proposals to make some popular flu remedies prescription-only due to fears they’re being used to make an illegal Class A drug have been attacked by MPs.

A large cross-party group of MPs questioned whether the restriction was the best option and warned it ‘signalled a vote of no confidence’ in pharmacists.

Police have warned that pseudoephedrine and ephedrine – ingredients in many over-the-counter cough and decongestant remedies – can be extracted relatively easily to make ‘crystal meth’.

The drug produces an effect similar to crack cocaine when smoked in its crystalline form and can cause psychiatric problems.

Pseudoephedrine medicines

The UK already restricts pseudoephedrine medicines to pharmacy sale under the supervision of a pharmacist or trained assistant.

But the government’s drugs watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, is consulting on plans to make them prescription-only and to reduce the pack size of medicines.

Dr Howard Stoate, Labour chairman of the Parliamentary All-Party Pharmacy Group, said: ‘We support measures to prevent crystal meth from hitting Britain’s streets, but we question whether making flu remedies containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine prescription-only is the best option.”

He continued: ‘As a GP myself I am confident that pharmacists can make sensible judgments and appropriate interventions to prevent the abuse of these medicines.’

‘No confidence’

Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat vice-chairman of the group, added: ‘These proposals appear to signal a vote of no confidence in the pharmacy profession.

‘They imply that pharmacists are unable to use their clinical skills to make a professional judgment.

‘The MHRA should look at experience overseas, where control of these products has been exercised through pharmacies. We are keen to see the results of the MHRA’s consultation on the issue.’

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