'You simply don’t know what you are getting': coroner warns of dangers of buying medication online after Wigan woman's death

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A coroner has highlighted the risks of buying medication on the internet after the death of a Wigan woman described as a “beautiful, kind soul”.

Kelly Newton, 41, was found dead at her home in Ashton on Saturday, October 15, the day after going to bed with a headache.

An inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court has now heard she had taken prescribed medication, primarily painkiller morphine.

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But its effects were enhanced by other medication including diazepam, which had not been prescribed by her GP and may have been bought online.

Coroner Simon Nelson said: “I am always concerned when I hear of individuals purchasing drugs that are not prescribed for them by a legitimate prescriber in the UK. I know sadly, as we all do, that many of these drugs are available on the internet and there are no controls that can prevent the distribution of those drugs, quite often bought abroad.”

He said that buyers did not always know the real contents or strength of medication bought online because the manufacturing process was “so sophisticated” that it duplicated authentic drugs and packaging.

"You simply don’t know what you are getting,” he said.

The inquest heard Miss Newton was a former Cansfield High School pupil, who loved her family and friends and had moved into the family home around 10 months earlier after a long-term relationship ended.

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She was employed as a dental hygienist and returned home from work early on Friday, October 14 as she had a headache.

She took two Migraleve tablets and went to bed to try to sleep it off.

Miss Newton saw her mother at around 8.30pm and then spoke to her sister by phone at 9.20pm, with her mother also hearing her getting up to use the bathroom at 2.20am.

But she was found unresponsive in bed later that day and paramedics attended, but confirmed she had died.

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Empty blister packets for three prescribed medications – morphine, zopiclone and codeine – were found in her bedroom.

A post-mortem examination did not establish the cause of Miss Newton’s death, so toxicological tests were carried out which found she had taken a number of medications.

These included codeine at therapeutic levels, which may have come from the Migraleve tablets.

She had also taken morphine at a higher dose than prescribed, with senior consultant forensic toxicologist Julie Evans telling the inquest the level could account for the tablets missing from a blister pack.

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She explained that Miss Newton was previously prescribed a higher dose of morphine and may not have realised her tolerance had dropped when the dosage was reduced.

Mrs Evans said: “People develop tolerance. She had previously been on a higher dose of morphine. At those times, she would have had considerably more tolerance than when she reduced her dose.”

Miss Newton’s medical cause of death was recorded as the toxic effects of morphine, enhanced by codeine, zopiclone and diazepam.

Mr Nelson said there was no evidence that she intended to end her life and he concluded that she died by misadventure.

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