Over the counter cough and cold medicines set to be 90% less readily available for parents of 6-12 year olds.
The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) has advised on a package of measures ostensibly to improve safe use of over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines in relation to children.
For children aged 6-12 year medicines will only be available from the UK’s 10,000 pharmacies rather than the 102,000* UK grocery retail outlets and supermarkets as presently stocked.
This over 90% cut in distribution is designed to ensure parents obtain clear advice on the correct application of OTC cough and cold medicines for children from a pharmacist (rather than relying on them to follow instructions on these products and exercise their own self-judgement) – but has potentially serious repercussions.
In rural communities served only by a local supermarket or general store parents may be unable to access these medicines as an option for the treatment of their children when they require them. This may result in parents opting to take their children to A&E for an immediate prescription, leading to overcrowding in A&E departments.
Even in high population density areas parents may find it hard to access convenient pharmacies open at all hours – unlike petrol stations and 24 hour supermarkets as at present.
There is a danger that parents unable to access child medications for their sick children may decide to take the potential hazardous action of administering smaller does of their own medications to provide immediate relief rather than take the trouble to access a pharmacy.
Whilst the population is increasing the number of pharmacies has been largely static in the UK for the past several years with around 1 per 6,000 head of population.
Concern regarding the new advice is also being voiced within the medicine manufacturing industry. Ken Wells, Managing Director of Bells Healthcare, which has been manufacturing tried and tested OTC cough and cold remedies for children over 100 years, states, “The decision taken was the result of a Canadian study on children’s medicines and the retail conditions between Canada and the UK are totally different. Ironically the implementation of General Sales Licence (GSL) on children’s medicines was introduced to stop parents giving adult medicines to children. We have already had numerous customers contact us totally confused by the reports issued over the weekend.”
Kathleen Pratt, 37, of Ashford in Kent lives 7 miles from a local pharmacy with her partner and two children aged 2 and 8 and does not have a car. She currently buys her children’s medicines from her nearest grocery store, however, the in store pharmacy closes at 6pm and she is very worried to hear the news. “My son is 8 years old and regularly suffers from high temperatures and needs medicine to reduce these, as advised by our doctor. This ruling will make life even more difficult and more dangerous for my son. If I ever find myself in a situation where I cannot get hold of the medicines he needs, I will be forced to make more visits to A&E, which is more stressful for my son and puts him at increased risk.”
*statistics sourced from DEFRA
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