HC Deb 25 July 1966 vol 732 cc1209-10
49. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Health whether he will now recommend to doctors, chemists and manufacturers of drugs that the recommendation of the Dunlop Committee be accepted, namely, that the names and purposes of drugs be written or printed on the bottle or container.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Kenneth Robinson)

The Pharmacy and Medicines Act, 1941, already requires substances recommended as medicines which are on sale to the public to be labelled with the name of the substance or its active constituents. The desirability of extending statutory labelling requirements is being considered in the course of the Government's review of medicines legislation, but any alteration of the present convention governing the labelling of dispensed medicines is a matter for the medical and pharmaceutical professions in the first instance. The two professions are currently considering the matter.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would the Minister look at this question sympathetically? Should there not be legislation saying that the name of the drug should be on the bottle, because there are millions of bottles in people's medicine cupboards and in case of emergency or of an accident to a child people would not know what was inside a bottle? For the convenience of the public, would it not be beneficial to have the name on the bottle?

Mr. Robinson

I am not unsympathetic to the proposal. In a number of hospitals the medical staff have agreed to authorise the hospital pharmacists to name the medicines dispensed to outpatients. Many doctors, although not all, share the view that this could be extended to dispensing of medicines generally.

Mr. Rankin

Would it not save a great deal of trouble if prescriptions were written in legible English?

Mr. Braine

Does the Minister recall that the Dunlop Committee was set up precisely to deal with matters of drug safety in advance of legislation being introduced? Why should there be delay in this matter? Is the Minister aware that there is growing dissatisfaction with his failure to deal administratively with many of these drug and medicine matters and that he shelters behind the promise of legislation which the House has not yet seen?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Member knows very well that this matter was raised frequently during the term of office of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. It is not quite so simple as it might appear because, as I think most people agree, there are circumstances in which it may be undesirable for the name to appear on the label. I can assure the hon. Member that, following the recommendation of the Dunlop Committee, this matter is being considered by the professions concerned and I shall be guided by the outcome of that consideration.

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