Warnings about the danger of patients becoming addicted to super-strength opioid painkillers are to be toughened.
The move by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency regulator is the latest strengthening of the rules after an Evening Standard investigation highlighted the risk of becoming dependent on the drugs.
The MHRA had already ordered that addiction warnings be attached to prescription opioids. This latest announcement builds on that and goes further, putting the warning into the patient information leaflet and instructing GPs to pass on the warnings to patients. It relates to prescribed or over-the-counter medicines containing opioids for non-cancer pain. The aim is to prevent patients becoming hooked.
Health minister Lord Bethell 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.”
Sarah Branch, MHRA director of vigilance, 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.
“This is a further step forward in helping to promote the safe use of these pain-relieving medicines.”