Common medications move to over-the-counter use

Regulator switches dozens of popular products away from prescription-only status

Dozens of commonly used medicines will be made available over the counter for the first time following a decision by the drugs regulator to remove their prescription-only classification.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (formerly the Irish Medicines Board) today published a list of 12 active substances that are currently classified as prescription-only but are being switched to over-the-counter sale.

As a result, 34 medicines containing the substances singly or in combination will henceforth be available in pharmacies without prescription.

The list includes medicines used for the treatment of migraines, acid reflux symptoms, hay fever, cold sores, muscle pain and inflammation, fungal skin and nail infections and other inflammatory skin conditions.


Pharmaceutical companies that hold the marketing authorisation for the medicines will first have to apply to the authority to have their products reclassified before the change takes effect.

The decision was taken following examination by the authority of unmet needs in the availability of non-prescription medicines as well as recommendations by an independent consultative panel.

"The authority is pleased to bring this reclassification initiative forward with this initial list of products," said Lorraine Nolan, director of human products authorisation. "This will see an increase in the range of medicines that can be made available to patients through pharmacies without prescription.

“Dependent on the nature, quality of applications and the relevant engagement process with marketing authorisation holders, further lists of appropriate substances may be considered in the future.”

Earlier this month, the authority switched the classification of a first nicotine replacement product from prescription-only to over-the-counter.

The medicines affected by the latest switch include diclofenac salts for muscle pain relief, penciclovir for cold sores, sumatriptan for migraine and mixtures of hydrocortisone with other drugs for skin problems.

Most of these drugs are better known under their commercial names.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times