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zopicloneNovember 11 2015

Doctors have raised concerns about the ease of online access to hypnotic ‘Z drugs’, having treated a patient who overdosed on 100 zopiclone 7.5mg tablets. The patient had purchased the tablets from an internet site without prescription.

Writing in the BMJ, the doctors say that of 37 websites where zopiclone was available in quantities of up to 2,000 tablets, only one stated that a prescription was needed. They point out that use of the ‘Z drugs’ class of hypnotics (zopiclone, zolpidem and zaleplon) has increased in recent years, and that zopiclone was the sixth most common drug among enquiries to TOXBASE, the UK National Poisons Information Service’s online database.

The authors, led by Paul Dargan at the clinical toxicology unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, have called on the regulatory authorities to “take measures to ensure that these websites comply with medicines and other regulations for the supply of this prescription only drug.”

The authors’ analysis of internet availability of Z drugs found that of the 37 websites selling zopiclone, 35 sold other Z drugs or benzodiazepines, and 15 offered bulk discounts. While 24 provided information or warnings about dosage, “22 clearly stated that no prescription was necessary for purchase, while 14 made no mention of this at all. Only one stated that a prescription was needed.”

Zopicloine is a controlled drug, owing to concerns about dependence and the potential for misuse, but the drug was available from the websites without prescription, said the authors. “Not only do these websites bypass necessary oversight required for supply, they provide access for vulnerable people who may buy it for self poisoning, suicide, or misuse.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s spokesperson, Neal Patel, was interviewed on BBC Breakfast and highlighted the risks of buying medicines from unregulated websites. “Zopilcone is a very safe medicine if used appropriately. It’s fine for short term use,” he said.

However, people using unregulated wesbites are exposing themselves potentially to a misdiagnosis, and also may receive a product that is not legitimate. “Often these products are fake, they are contaminated with other substances, and may not contain any active ingredient at all.”

The RPS points out that an online pharmacy displaying the new EU common logo means that the website is registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as a UK online retail seller. “All online pharmacies in the EU are required by law to display this logo.”
EUlogo
Links:

BMJ announcement

JH Ho et al. 'Availability of prescription zopiclone over the internet'. BMJ 2015; 351. Published 04 November 2015.

RPS comment

The Good Health Suite coverage: Dangers of online medicines

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