Warnings over opioids are to get even tougher

Warnings over opioids are to get even tougher: Doctors and chemists must talk to patients about dependency risk, regulatory agency announces

  •  Doctors or pharmacists will have to talk to patients about the risks of both prescription and over-the-counter opioid medicine
  •  Warnings will also be added to the patient information leaflet that comes with medicines
  • Opioids have a high risk of addiction, particularly when used in the long term, and can cause dependence even when given by doctors to treat legitimate pain 

 STRONGER warnings about the addiction risks of opioid medicines will be given to patients who buy them over the counter at chemists.

Doctors or pharmacists will have to talk about the risk of dependency with patients, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced yesterday.

Discussions will include a treatment plan such as how long the medicines should be taken for in order to reduce the risk of addiction.

The new warnings will apply  to both prescription and over the-counter opioid medicine given for non-cancer pain. 

Warnings will also be added to the patient information leaflet that comes with medicines to reinforce the conversations with healthcare professionals.

Patients will be given warnings about the addiction risks of both prescription and over the-counter opioid medicines

It will make clear if a medicine contains opioids which can cause addiction and can cause withdrawal symptoms if patients stop taking them suddenly.

The Daily Mail has rallied for years to highlight the dangers of addictive prescription pills and has called for their use to be reduced with our Save The Prescription Pill Victims campaign.

In another victory for the Mail last year, packaging on powerful medications such as morphine had to carry a warning about addiction risk for the first time. Lord Bethell, innovation minister, said: ‘Opioid addiction is a serious and life-threatening issue and people need to be aware of these risks before they take medicines with such a high rate of dependency.

‘It is vital that patients are given the right support and guidance on the dangers of long-term use and the strengthening of these labels is a crucial step forwards in protecting patients and saving lives.’

Opioids have a high risk of addiction, particularly when used in the long term, and can cause dependence even when given by doctors to treat legitimate pain.

The Opioid Expert Working Group of the Commission on Human Medicines developed the new guidance to protect the public after concerns were raised about the increase in opioid prescription in the UK.

Although the drugs are an effective and necessary part of some treatments, care needs to be taken when they are used over a long period of time. Experts also warn that some users can turn to illegal drugs, such as heroin, once their prescriptions come to an end.

Dr Sarah Branch, MHRA director of vigilance and risk management of medicines, said: ‘Last year we announced that opioid-containing medicine packaging must carry warnings. Now, we are strengthening those warnings to ensure that opioid medicines are supplied with consistent information on how to manage the risk of addiction.’

Dr Branch added: ‘This is a further step forward in helping to promote the safe use of these pain-relieving medicines.’ 

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