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We are facing far bigger dangers than ibuprofen

Why can I buy tobacco and alcohol, which have killed millions, but not disulfram or varenicline, asks Xrayser

‘Ibuprofen 400mg should be reclassified as GSL' argues manufacturer. So ran the headline on the C+D website last week, and my first knee-jerk reaction was to bang out an article ridiculing this preposterously dangerous suggestion. "Thin end of the wedge!" I cried. "Soon we'll be able to walk down the road and buy temazepam and buprenorphine!"


As it happens, you already can. According to one of our supervised consumption patients, the going rate for 8mg buprenorphine is £5, and the street price of temazepam is so much less than our best wholesaler's that I'm considering a walk down the road myself.


But it did start me wondering at the perversity of our regulations. Why can I buy tobacco and alcohol, which have killed millions and cause greater cost to the NHS than any other drugs, but I can't buy disulfram or varenicline?


So here we are considering making ibuprofen 400mg available without restriction and I can understand the logic of the argument. With clear labelling, there's no chance it will be taken by patients at risk of GI bleed or cardiovascular, renal or hepatic disease. There's no reason for this to be the thin end of the wedge that ends with GSL diclofenac 100mg.

Perhaps in the future there'll be no restrictions on any drug sales, and instead we will order any medicine online with a link to its Wikipedia entry and a Facebook site for shared experience



Perhaps in the future there'll be no restrictions on any drug sales, and instead we will order any medicine online with a link to its Wikipedia entry and a Facebook site for shared experience. There we can benefit from that shared wisdom of the risks and benefits of medication in the rational manner currently practised by the tabloid press.


Would it make any difference? Will history teach of the gin craze of the 18th century, the tobacco craze of the 20th century and the tramadol craze of the 21st century?


And where do we go from here? We know prohibition doesn't work. That great American experiment in the 1920s led to jazz, the Charleston and organised crime, and no amount of toughness on the causes of crime has done any better in the UK.


So maybe we should do a deal with the manufacturers. They're right that the harm from GSL 400mg ibuprofen is likely to be small. But what about the risks from drinking, smoking and the health problems associated with obesity? Perhaps we should lobby the MHRA and suggest that supermarkets can have 400mg ibuprofen on their open shelves, but all alcohol, tobacco,confectionery, crisps and snacks should be made pharmacy medicines. That just might be the biggest contribution to public health ever made! More from Xrayser

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