Availability of prescription zopiclone over the internetBMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5710 (Published 04 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5710
- James H Ho, specialist registrar in clinical toxicology1,
- David M Wood, consultant clinical toxicologist1,
- John R H Archer, consultant clinical toxicologist1,
- Paul I Dargan, professor and reader in clinical toxicology1
The use of “Z drugs” has recently increased; in 2013-14 zopiclone was the sixth most common drug among enquiries to the UK National Poisons Information Service’s online database, TOXBASE.1 Weich and colleagues noted an increased risk of mortality with hypnotic drugs,2 amid increasing concern about non-medical misuse.3 4 Furthermore, people’s increasingly consumerist approach to healthcare provision provides new regulatory challenges.5
We recently managed a patient whose overdose of 100 tablets of 7.5 mg zopiclone, reportedly purchased from an internet site without prescription, highlights these problems.
To investigate the availability of zopiclone we did an internet snapshot survey using EMCDDA methodology.6 We identified 37 websites selling zopiclone tablets in quantities of up to 2000. Thirty five also sold other benzodiazepines/Z drugs and 15 offered bulk purchase discounts. Most (24) provided information/warning about dosage, but 22 clearly stated that no prescription was necessary for purchase, while 14 made no mention of this at all. Only one stated that a prescription was needed.
In 2014, zopiclone was controlled in the UK as a class C, schedule IV part 1 drug, owing to concerns about dependence and potential for misuse.7 Yet despite this, zopiclone is available from internet sites without prescription. Not only do these websites bypass necessary oversight required for supply, they provide access for vulnerable people who may buy it for self poisoning, suicide, or misuse. Regulatory authorities must take measures to ensure that these websites comply with medicines and other regulations for the supply of this prescription only drug.
Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5710
Competing interests: PID is a member of the EMCDDA scientific committee and the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs; DMW is an expert adviser to the EMCDDA and a co-opted member of the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.