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A leading pharmacist claims there needs to be a rethink over how some brand-name painkillers are sold as fears mount about the abuse of legal drugs.
Darragh O’Loughlin, a senior member of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU), says stricter measures to control codeine-based drugs could cut addiction levels.
And he suggests people should be screened before being sold the over-the-counter medications that can lead to dependency.
He said: “If codeine-based painkillers were only available following a proper consultation with a pharmacist, you would have to explain your symptoms.
“And if the pharmacist was satisfied it was the right medicine before supplying, I think that would make it less likely that people would have problems with it.”
Little research has been conducted on painkiller addiction in the Republic of Ireland, although anecdotal evidence suggests it is a serious problem.
Mr O’Loughlin added: “Most of the centres that deal with drug addiction confine themselves to illegal drugs, so there isn’t really that much published research on the level of addiction to prescription painkillers or over-the-counter painkillers.
“But every pharmacist gets a feeling at some stage that somebody is buying a product not because they have the symptoms that would make them need that product, but because they have a problem.”
However, Mr O’Loughlin believes tighter restrictions, such as making painkillers prescription-only, could lead to a severe strain on health services.
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Irish Pharmaceutical Union: www.ipu.ie