Inhalers ‘over the counter’

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WIGAN asthma sufferers can now buy inhalers from supermarkets across the borough after a landmark ruling.

Supermarket giant Asda has announced it is making the devices available without prescription for the first time from its pharmacies at the supercentre at Robin Park.

Folk with the breathing condition who are 16 or over can buy a pack of two blue reliever inhalers for £7 from the hypermarket, after the products went on sale on Tuesday.

Shoppers will not be able to simply take inhalers off the supermarket’s shelves, but will need to see the store’s registered pharmacists and fill out a medical questionnaire before making their purchase.

The move marks the first time asthma patients have been permitted to buy inhalers without having to see their doctor, and the supermarket’s products will also be cheaper than those bought on prescription.

Health professionals in Wigan gave cautious support to the move, but warned they were worried people using the supermarket services would stop going to see their GP.

Dr Tim Dalton, chair of Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG), said: “We have received no direct communication about this new service being offered by certain supermarkets, but we broadly welcome the principle of an increase in the ease of safe access to medications.

“Our only concern would be if people used this service exclusively and avoided seeing their GP or practice nurse at all. While it is safe to use these inhalers in the amounts described, sometimes there might be a need for additional medications to avoid the underlying condition getting worse.

“The patient could end up being much more poorly by just relying on these “reliever” medications and we imagine the pharmacist would monitor this situation.”

The blue reliever inhalers provide relief from symptoms commonly associated with asthma including tightness of chest, wheezing and shortness of breath. The condition affects more than five million people in the UK.

The introduction of the inhalers is being overseen by online medical service DrThorn and is the first part of a significant expansion of the supermarket pharmacy’s services.

Asda also plans to introduce assessments for asthma sufferers, with pharmacists advising on the best way to manage symptoms.

Faisal Tuddy, Asda deputy superintendent pharmacist, said: “Asthma is a condition that affects millions of UK residents and it can often prove to be stressful trying to book a GP appointment when your inhaler is running low. We have listened to our customers and it was clear that easier access to asthma relief is the most desirable service we could provide.”

It is unclear whether other local supermarkets are planning to follow a similar policy.