There has been a “significant increase” in the sale of codeine-containing medicines since 2018, Fine Gael's health spokesperson has told Newstalk Breakfast.
The latest figures were released yesterday, in response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Colm Burke.
The number of prescriptions issued for medicines containing codeine has increased by more than 22% since 2012.
1,110,000 prescriptions for the pain-relieving codeine drug were issued through public medicine schemes last year.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Burke said: “An urgent review into rules governing the sale of codeine is needed.”
“The Health Products Regulatory Authority is currently conducting a review of the measures of sale and supply of codeine-containing medicines,” he said.
“They will be making recommendations to the department – I would now suggest that this would be expedited.
“I think it's important that we would do it as soon as possible.”
‘Opioid use disorder’
Deputy Burke said codeine-containing medicines should “provide a temporary solution to a health problem.”
“You can have situations where people become completely dependent on it,” he said.
Mr Burke said codeine-containing medicines should be issued only via prescription.
“We also need to review when a person is on a product for a long period of time: Are there other ways of dealing with it?
“If we have a situation where people become dependent, it can lead to opioid use disorder.”
Mr Burke said the figures released yesterday “don't give the full picture.”
“There's also people who are accessing these drugs without necessarily going through the system of the General Medical Scheme, the Drugs Payment Scheme or the Long-Term Illness Scheme,” he said.
Deputy Burke said in the United States, figures indicate that opioid-prescribed products have a large effect on the total number of deaths by overdose.
“In 2021, the total number of deaths in the US as a result of overdose was 106,000,” he said.
“There were over 16,000 deaths as a result of overdose of opioid products.”
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