An Expert Working Group (EWG) of the UK’s Commission on Human Medicines has met for the first time at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to begin a review of the benefits and risks for opioid medicines, including dependence and addiction.
The EWG will undertake a comprehensive independent scientific review of all available evidence on the use of opioid medicines in the United Kingdom, drawing on best practice internationally, to provide information for patients and health professionals that will help curb the “over-prescription and misuse of these medicines”.
The review will consider current data on the utilisation of opioid-containing medicines in the United Kingdom, both prescribed and over-the-counter, and will assess whether implementation of risk-minimisation measures have been effective or whether further measures are required.
The group will also consider the benefit/risk of opioid-containing medicines, in particular for non-cancer indications, taking into account alternatives. It will make recommendations for regulatory action to better support appropriate use of prescription opioids, which may include changes to the Summary of Product Characteristics and Patient Information Leaflet, product labelling and packaging, and any other risk minimisation measures.
The EWG is made up of experts in relevant scientific disciplines, including pain management, general practice, psychiatry and substance abuse, geriatric and paediatric medicine, among others.
It is expected that the group will engage with relevant stakeholders from across the health sector, charities and addiction support groups, to raise awareness among both health care professionals and the public on the risks for addiction and how these can be managed.