Step into any newsagents, petrol station or chemists and you face a sophisticated blizzard of marketing from a £500million-plus industry, pushing a fast-moving consumer product in distinctly lifestyle-friendly ways. The fact that many bestselling brands of this product - painkillers - are potentially habit forming and addictive is often forgotten in our consumer culture. Should we be worried? Well, the Australian Government certainly is, and British MPs are mulling the issue too.
Next month an Australian government committee is to consider making popular over-the-counter (OTC) codeine-containing painkillers, such as Nurofen Plus, prescription-only. The National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee may put them in a restricted category for drugs at high risk of being abused.
The move is in response to fear of growing abuse of codeine and dihydrocodeine. These morphine-like drugs are included in combination with other analgesics in leading brands such as Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine. A study by Melbourne's Angliss Hospital, in the Medical Journal of Australia in January, called “recreational misuse” of Nurofen Plus a “significant problem”, that causes perforated stomach ulcers. It added: “Misuse of these medications appears to be an emerging cause of significant morbidity in patients with codeine addiction.” An Australian online forum for those addicted to Nurofen Plus claimed earlier this year that 7,000 Australians had now joined it.
In the UK, codeine and dihydrocodeine are available only on prescription as single drugs, but are available over the counter when combined with the non-prescription painkillers, aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen, in brands such as Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine. In America, codeine and its relatives are banned in all non-prescription drugs. But codeine-containing drugs are not the only concern. Evidence indicates that many other highly marketed brands, which often contain caffeine as well as a painkiller, may ironically be causing untold thousands of Britons to suffer daily headaches.
Source - Times