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expert reaction to PHE report into dependence on prescription medicines

Public Health England (PHE) have published a report into dependence on prescription medicines. 


A spokesperson for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said:

“The MHRA continually monitors the benefits and risks of opioid medicines authorised for use in the UK and will take regulatory action as necessary to optimise the safe use of these products. We take the experience in the US of dependence and addiction to opioids very seriously and are following international developments in order to learn from the actions other countries are taking to tackle this issue.

“The MHRA’s remit relates to the safety of the authorised opioid medicines and the information for patients and healthcare professionals supplied with them. An Expert Working Group (EWG) has been established by the MHRA to review the benefits and risks of opioid medicines, including dependence and addiction. The review is focussing on the regulatory measures that can be taken to help minimise risks of dependence and addiction to prescribed opioids in the UK. Here’s a press release from February this year outlining the purpose of the opioid EWG:

“Our clear priority at MHRA is to make sure that patients, carers and prescribers have clear and consistent warnings on the risks of dependence and addiction to a medicine containing an opioid. It is important to recognise that it will take action from all aspects of the UK’s healthcare system in order to minimise the risks of dependence and addiction in the UK and prevent a US-style opioid epidemic from taking hold.

“In April, the MHRA accepted a recommendation from the Opioid EWP that the labelling for opioid medicines must carry a warning that informs patients about the risk of addiction. Packs are currently being updated to present these warnings.

“The Opioid EWG is reviewing the authorised information provided to prescribers and patients to ensure it gives clear and consistent guidance.

“The EWG is undertaking a comprehensive independent scientific review of all available evidence on the use of opioid medicines in the UK, drawing on best practice internationally, to make sure the information for patients and health professionals helps curb the over-prescription and misuse of these medicines. The Opioid Expert Working Group will consider the recommendations made by Public Health England.

“Patients on an opioid medicine or their relatives who are concerned should speak to their healthcare professional as treatment with opioid medicines is individually tailored to each person’s situation.”


Dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicines’ by Stephen Taylor et al. was published by PHE at 00:01 UK time on Tuesday 10th September. 


Declared interests

None received. 

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