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Health

New Zealand to bring back over-the-counter sales of cold, flu drug in pharmacies

IANS | February 21, 2024 10:35 AM

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will bring back over-the-counter sales of cold and flu drugs in pharmacies by getting rid of unnecessary red tape.

This act allows New Zealanders greater freedom and choice to purchase effective cold and flu medicines, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Cold and flu medicines containing pseudoephedrine will be reclassified from prescription to restricted medicines, which will allow the public to purchase these medicines from a pharmacy without a prescription, " Associate Health Minister David Seymour said on Tuesday.

A bill amending the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1975, is being introduced and changes to the Medicines Regulations, 1984, are being made to reclassify pseudoephedrine.

Pseudoephedrine was banned because of fears it would be used for methamphetamine production, Seymour said, adding the gangs have far more effective ways of obtaining pseudoephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine which should be tackled instead.

"Alternative cold and flu medicines have been shown to be no more effective than a placebo. New Zealanders are being denied decent cold and flu medication, but the gangs are selling more methamphetamine than ever, " he said.

The use of these medicines will still be subject to a level of oversight as consumers will be required to purchase them directly from a pharmacist, Seymour said, adding restrictions on importing and exporting these medicines will also be retained.

Taking into account supply chains and the ability of companies to prepare products, it is expected the medication will be back on shelves in 2025.

Rhys Ponton of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Auckland said pseudoephedrine was removed from community pharmacy sales in 2011 due to concerns that it was used as a precursor to the manufacture of methamphetamine. However, the restriction on this precursor has not reduced the availability or stopped the use of methamphetamine in New Zealand as demonstrated by police and customs seizures data.

It is unclear if the return of pseudoephedrine will lead to changes in the criminal supply of methamphetamine, Ponton said, adding concerns from pharmacists surrounding potential security risks should be listened to, and any such events should be closely monitored.

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