Addictive OTC drugs forced to carry warnings on packs

Medicine manufacturers and retailers back addiction warnings on codeine products.

Counter attack: Addiction alerts
Counter attack: Addiction alerts

Drug retailers and manufacturers have backed Government plans to include health warnings about the risk of addiction on some over-the-counter painkillers.

OTC painkillers that contain codeine, such as Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine Plus, will from next year have to carry a prominent health warning that reads: “Can cause addiction. For three days’ use only”.

The move is one of a series of measures announced by the Government’s drug watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), aimed at tackling the problem of “hidden addiction”.

To add to this, advertising will no longer be able to state that drugs can help cure ailments such as colds. Instead, ads will state that drugs can only help relieve acute and moderate pain.

Boots, which is currently running a TV ad promoting the range of OTC painkillers it stocks with the message that women buy more painkillers than men, says it is “fully supportive” of the MHRA guidance.

Boots superintendent pharmacist Paul Bennett says: “We are committed to offering customers advice and guidance on the correct use of painkillers and have a duty of care to ensure that they understand how to take these medicines”.

The Proprietary Association of Great Britain, the trade association representing manufacturers of OTC medicines, says that although there is “very little” advertising for products containing codeine, it will “immediately” update its own advertising codes to ensure the addiction warning is included in any new ads.

The MHRA announcement follows a report in July by a parliamentary group that warned about the danger of over-the-counter painkillers. About 32,000 people in the UK are believed to be addicted to painkillers, according to official estimates.

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