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Pharmacist drug caution

28th March 2008

In an article in the British Medical Journal, two doctors have said increasing the number of medications which can be purchased at pharmacies could "affect safety and cut effectiveness."

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West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug Reactions director Robin Ferner and Keith Beard, from the Victoria Infirmary Glasgow, said purchased medication could cause side-effects.

The government wants commonly used medication to be easier to find, in order to help people who have long-standing illnesses.

The doctors called to attention two cases where people died and inquests revealed codeine-based painkillers were involved.

"Certainly, pharmacists can provide clinical advice to minimise the risk of misuse of pharmacy only drugs, but supervision by a busy community pharmacist in the UK may be perfunctory," they wrote.

They said that people who diagnosed their own illnesses and attempted to cure themselves with purchased medication could cause delays to the treatment they required from their doctor.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is the industry watchdog responsible for registering reports of side effects.

Dr Ferner and Dr Beard have warned that, despite an extension of the MHRA's reporting scheme (to encourage patients to report drugs' side effects), they did not feel the process was safe enough.

"Whole communities might lose out in the long run if indiscriminate overuse of widely available medicines were to lead to large numbers of avoidable but irreversible adverse effects," they wrote.


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