Over the counter Painkillers

General info

Over-the-counter painkillers taken by millions of people can become addictive within just a few days of use, the Government's Medicines Agency has warned.

New restrictions are now being applied to medicines containing Codeine, including Nurofen Plus and Solpadeine that are sold over the counter and are routinely used to ease headaches, back problems and period pain. Clear and prominently positioned warnings will be put on the front of packs and accompanying patient information leaflets, stating: 'Can cause addiction; for three days use only.'

Official figures show that more than 30,000 consumers have become addicted to the drugs, many accidentally, with women most at risk of developing an addiction. Growing concern about the spread of what experts describe as a hidden addiction, has led the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to announce a series of measures to counter the problem.

Packet size will be limited to 32 tablets, with larger packs available only by prescription in a bid to curb misuse. New advertising will no longer state that the drugs are remedies for coughs and colds and it will be targeted towards acute and moderate pain. There have been fears of a growing market in bulk buying of these medicines on the Internet with many patients and doctors totally unaware of the dangers.

Around 27 million over-the-counter pills containing codeine are sold every year in a painkiller market worth £500 million. Women are feared to be most at risk from addiction.


  • Pain relief when used as directed


  • Addiction
  • Overdose
  • Liver damage
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Stomach problems and gallstones.