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Experts call on NICE to recommended a ban on OTC codeine sales

Published on 17/02/20 at 10:51am

Experts have called for a ban on the sale of over the counter codeine as NICE is set to publish its draft guidance for the management of chronic pain next week.

These experts are part of a committee advising NICE. Dr Jens Foell, a GP who is on the guidelines committee, said: “I don’t like OTC codeine because it builds a culture of pill popping and I’m aware of people who are really dependent and addicted to codeine. But I don’t know how many people use it and I also don’t know what it would mean to take it away in terms of increased demand on GP practices so there may be a price to pay. Personally, I think a public health campaign would be better.”

The NICE guidance is being published as part of a response to prescription drug addiction and the dangers of opioids. In October, a Public Health England review found that over 11 million adults in England were prescribed addictive drugs between 2017 and 2018. The Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency has set up an Expert Working Group in response to the increase in addictive drugs, to assess the benefits and risks of opioids with the aim of cutting over prescription.

Dr Foell feels the current model of addressing chronic pain should be overhauled. He feels the GP needs to be more involved with the management of chronic conditions: “We need to change how we provide pain management and look at other models we have for chronic disease management with regular recalls and an ongoing health relationship. At the moment, people are going round in circles because it is a chronic condition with ups and downs.”

Lately, there has been calls to stop calling opioids “painkillers”, as it has raised unrealistic expectations on how well they treat certain conditions.

Conor Kavanagh


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