Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 127 - Medicinal products [Codeine] [42115/10].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 127 - Medicinal products [Codeine] [42115/10]. (11 Nov 2010)

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127. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the guidelines on the sale of medicines containing codeine which were issued by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland; if her Department or the Health Service Executive have any role in ensuring that patients rights are protected in the implementation of the guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), the regulatory body for pharmacy in Ireland, issued new guidance to pharmacists on the safe supply of non-prescription products containing codeine on the 1st of August 2010. All pharmacists and retail pharmacy businesses are required to comply with this guidance.


Codeine is a controlled drug listed in the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. If inappropriately used it can be associated with dependence or reduced effect over time. According to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System, maintained by the Health Research Board, the numbers entering treatment for codeine as a problem drug have increased considerably, from 40 in 1998 to 180 in 2009. This is an indicator that the use of codeine can cause dependence. In addition, between 1998 and 2007, codeine, either alone or in conjunction with another drug, was implicated in the cause of 90 fatal poisonings. These data are based on data from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index.


Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003, as amended, codeine-containing medicinal products are ordinarily subject to prescription control. However, at specified lower strengths, codeine-containing products may be supplied without a prescription “by or under the personal supervision of a pharmacist”. The PSI guidance is intended to assist pharmacists in carrying out their legal and professional responsibility by engaging with patients to ensure that the product is the most suitable product for the patient in the circumstances.


The guidance requires pharmacists to engage personally with patients and to exercise their professional judgement in consultation with the patient when deciding if a codeine-containing medicinal product is the most appropriate treatment or whether another product would be more suitable for the patient.


Under the statutory Code of Conduct for Pharmacists, pharmacists are required to act at all times to maintain and improve the health, well-being and safety of patients, and also to comply with all relevant laws, regulations, and rules. It is a pharmacist’s duty to act at all times in the best interest of the patient. Breaches of the Code of Conduct for Pharmacists may result in a fitness to practice complaint against a pharmacist or pharmacy.


I welcome the steps being taken by the PSI to increase patient safety and awareness with regard to the use of codeine products and the increase in the interaction between the pharmacy profession and the public.


Vol. 721 No. 4

Written Answers – Medicinal Products

Thursday, 11 November 2010

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