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Sunday, November 15, 1998 Published at 10:33 GMT


Pharmacist's painkiller warning

A popular over-the-counter painkiller could cause a "potentially huge abuse problem", a pharmacist has warned.

Nurofen Plus is made up of ibuprofen and codeine, the latter an opium derivative which is used by some addicts to get high.

On its own, codeine is only available on prescription in the UK but it can be obtained in compound form, such as in Nurofen Plus and cough medicines.

As well as being used by drug abusers, codeine is also used by some heroin addicts to ward off withdrawal symptoms if they cannot get hold of the drug.

Writing in the Pharmaceutical Journal, chemist Bharat Nathwani, warned: "In the world of drug addicts, this product must be a Godsend.

"There are over 12mg of codeine in every tablet. A pack of 24 tablets contains more codeine than a 100ml bottle of codeine linctus.

"The codeine part is easily separable and in central London addicts seem to know about this already."

Mr Nathwani, of Pinner, Middlesex, has warned pharmacists to be alert to the possibility that customers might be abusing the tablets.

However, manufacturers Crookes Healthcare played down the dangers.

A spokeswoman said only two cases of codeine-abuse linked to the drug had been reported since it was launched, compared with sales of nearly 200 million tablets.

She said the dual action of the codeine and ibruprofen were what made the drug so effective and fast-acting.

"It has been subject to stringent tests and classified as a safe drug to be sold over the counter.

"Tests have shown that its addictive potential is very low and it would need to be taken in very large amounts to achieve a euphoric state."

Crookes added that any comments about their drugs were taken on board and included in future product development.

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