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Long awaited codeine review must be published without delay – Burke

Almost 800,000 codeine prescriptions issued in first ten months of 2023

17th March 2024 - Colm Burke TD

The long awaited review on the sale and supply of codeine products must be published without delay, according to Fine Gael TD Colm Burke.

Deputy Burke was speaking as figures obtained by him show there were 797,141 prescriptions for codeine  issued through the three main public drug schemes – the General Medical Services scheme, the Drugs Payment Scheme, and the Long-Term Illness Scheme – from January to October last year.

Deputy Burke, Fine Gael’s Dáil health spokesperson, said: “There are long established concerns around the misuse of common non-prescription medicines containing codeine by medics and patient advocates amid calls for these products to be made prescription only.

“Codeine is most often used in combination with other analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be bought without a prescription in pharmacies. Regular use of medications containing opioids can increase a person’s tolerance and dependence, leading to opioid use disorder.

“Previous data provided to me revealed a 22% jump since 2012 in the number of prescriptions issued for codeine, with the number soared to over 1 million prescriptions in 2022.

“In November 2022, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) announced it was conducting an independent review of the method of sale and supply of codeine-containing medicinal products that are currently available without a medical prescription.

“The recommendations will then be assessed by the Department of Health to consider any policy changes that may be required on the regulation of codeine-containing medicines.

“In a written response to me  this month, the HPRA said the review remains ongoing and that  submission of relevant data from the marketing authorisation holders to inform the review has been requested, and data provided subsequent to this request is being assessed.

“The HPRA has also engaged with partners in the health system to request additional relevant data that can inform on the use and potential for harm of low dose codeine products available over the counter in Ireland. The HPRA will then communicate its outcome.

“I believe this advice should also be made available publicly,  and we must learn from other countries on how they have taken steps to prevent codeine misuse and addiction by banning over the counter sales.

“The views of GPS, pharmacists and patients affected by codeine addiction should also be listened to when it comes to any potential change in prescribing practices.”

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