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Health professionals condemn over-the-counter drugs move

14 January 2009

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A move to make more prescription drugs available over the counter may harm patients while benefiting pharmaceutical companies, healthcare professionals have said.

A poll among readers of Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin focused on two antibiotics – trimethoprim, used for cystitis, and amsulosin, for benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Readers were asked to comment on plans being considered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to make both available without prescription.

Half feared that patients might misdiagnose their symptoms and misuse the drug, while others were concerned that it would increase antibiotic resistance.

At the same time, 70% said that patients may be tempted to delay seeking help for what may be a serious disease, while many felt that the move is being driven by the drug companies.

Meanwhile, allowing the 10mg dose of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug simvastatin to be sold over the counter as a means of countering heart disease was also condemned.

Most said it would do little to reduce the number of deaths in the general population; that it had not done much to reduce the workload of GPs; and questioned whether such a low dose was effective anyway.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

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“Many of these doctors are simply protecting their turf and sources of income. In the US at least, there are many people with BPH who cannot afford to go to a doctor and needlessly suffer. Sure, some of them may have cancer, but so what, the doctor, who is unaffordable, is of no help anyway! Let me try to help myself” – “Poor with BHP, in US without a doctor”