The problem of the misuse of prescription drugs has been recognised at national, European and international levels. Through the framework of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, the Department of Health is working in collaboration with the relevant statutory agencies to monitor the availability of controlled drugs, including prescription medicines, through illicit channels.
The enforcement of the law relating to the sale of drugs, including prescription drugs, continues to be a priority in the Government’s commitment to tackling the issue of drug misuse in this jurisdiction.
The supply of prescription medicines is controlled in a number of ways. Medicines which have a high potential to be misused are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Acts. The Misuse of Drugs Acts and Regulations impose restrictions on the production, supply, importation and exportation of controlled drugs, such as morphine, methadone and amphetamines. A person who has in his possession a prescription medicine containing a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs legislation for the purpose of selling or supplying it, is guilty of an offence under that legislation.
Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations, it is prohibited for a person to supply a prescription medicine except in accordance with a prescription, and the supply must be made from a registered pharmacy by or under the personal supervision of a registered pharmacist. A person who contravenes these Regulations is guilty of an offence.
As a result of consultations with key stakeholders, draft Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations are currently being prepared to introduce additional controls on certain prescription drugs being traded illicitly, including benzodiazepine medicines. These will be published on the Department’s website shortly and comments will be invited to be made in the subsequent two-week period.
Following this, it will be necessary to seek Government approval to notify the proposed regulations to the EU Commission and other Member States under the Technical Standards Directives because of the implications of the proposed regulatory changes on trade in pharmaceutical products.
Subject to successful completion of the EU notification period, which may take up to 3 months, it is anticipated that the new regulations will be introduced in mid-2013.