HL Deb 31 July 1975 vol 363 cc1178-9

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are disturbed by recent reports that some proprietary drugs contain a considerable alcoholic content.


My Lords, her Majesty's Government are concerned about any possible abuse of medicines. However, in the case of the products containing alcohol, its presence may be essential, I am told, for pharmaceutical purposes; for example, to ensure that the product has a satisfactory shelf-life. The Committee on Safety of Medicines, when advising on applications for licences for products containing alcohol, considers whether its inclusion is appropriate and whether it should be declared on the label. No doubt the Committee on Review of Medicines will deal similarly with products already on the market.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I should like to know whether his attention has been drawn to the current publication of the Medical Council on alcoholism. I understand that his Department makes a grant to this organisation. Is he aware that although I have read it very carefully I cannot find any excuse given, such as he has given in the House today, for alcohol being added to these products? Does my noble friend still support his argument when he thinks of all the gripe waters which are consumed by small children and which have a high alcoholic content?


My Lords, I am aware of the article to which my noble friend refers. I say to my noble friend and to your Lordships that the Government take a very serious view of this matter, which recently had a good deal of publicity. It is receiving attention, and I can say that the Medicines Commission met as recently as Wednesday of this week when this matter will have received consideration. I cannot tell your Lordships what was the outcome of the meeting or what the Commission decided, but if my noble friend would like to know I will certainly find out and communicate with her.


My Lords, I have always wanted to know what it was which made my babies enjoy gripe water so much. Can the noble Lord tell us whether there has been any harm proved to have attached to any child from drinking the stuff? It always seemed to me to do them good.


My Lords, I am in a difficult situation in the sense that I have no medical knowledge, but my information is that it is regarded as being a very exceptional occurrence.


My Lords, can the Minister see any valid reason why literature issued to the medical profession should not clearly state the alcoholic content of each preparation? Furthermore, could not the percentage content of alcohol be stated on the individual container so as to alert the pharmacist supplying the medicine, in order that he could issue a verbal warning of the potential hazards of a certain medicine? Lastly, would the Minister agree that the time is long overdue, with regard to the advertising or presenting for sale of patent medicines containing alcohol—

Several Noble Lords

Reading, reading!


My Lords, your Lordships will know that when a matter of this kind suddenly rears its ugly head attention is given to it. I am quite certain in my own mind that the various matters raised by the noble Earl will eventually—perhaps not immediately—be taken into account, and if something needs to be done it will be done.


My Lords, should it not be made obligatory upon every chemist prescribing such bottles of medicine to have an additional label, stating in bold red letters that it is dangerous to exceed the maximum dose?