Drugs: Students

Health written question – answered on 4th June 2013.

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Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Chair, Conservative Party 1922 Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the safety assessment of (a) Ritalin and (b) Modafinil in circumstances where they are being used without prescription for the purposes of enhanced academic performance; and if his Department will take steps to (i) inform students of the potential side effects of the use of such drugs and (ii) restrict the availability of such drugs without prescription.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health

In the United Kingdom, there are strict legal controls on the retail sale, supply and advertisement of medicinal products. Under medicines legislation, it is unlawful for medicinal products for human use to be marketed, manufactured, imported from a third country, distributed and sold or supplied in the UK except in accordance with the appropriate licences or exemptions.

Ritalin (‘Methylphenidate’) is a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and listed under Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Modafinil is a prescription only medicine (POM) and is not controlled under the 1971 Act. As such, it may only be legally sold or supplied to the public through registered pharmacy premises, by or under the supervision of a pharmacist. Additionally, it may only be sold or supplied in response to a prescription from an authorised health care professional (such as a doctor, dentist, or certain trained nurses and pharmacists).

A UK registered pharmacy may have a presence on the internet; however, the requirements of legislation apply equally to both UK internet pharmacies and bricks-and-mortar premises. Modafinil cannot be advertised directly to the public. These legal controls also apply equally to medicines for human use sold or supplied via the internet or e-mail transactions.

These restrictions do not apply to countries outside UK jurisdiction where medicines may be classified and regulated differently.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), an executive agency of the Department, is responsible for the regulation of medicines on the UK market. The MHRA has serious concerns about the availability of medicines being offered via the internet and issues regular warnings to the public concerning the inherent risks of purchasing medicines online. MHRA advice is that medicines purchased from websites, particularly websites based overseas, cannot be guaranteed to meet set standards of quality, safety and efficacy and advises patients not to purchase medicines in this way.

Neither methylphenidate (ritalin) or modafinil (provigil) are medicinal products authorised for use as cognition enhancers and the available efficacy and safety of these products for this use has not been evaluated by the MHRA.

Aspects of drug education are covered in statutory national curriculum science; for example, the curriculum ensures that pupils learn about ‘the effects of drugs on behaviour, health and life processes'.

This provision can be built on and extended through non-statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. The goal of PSHE is to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to make informed decisions to keep them safe, and teachers have the flexibility to tailor their PSHE programmes to reflect the needs of their pupils.

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