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Following a public consultation held by the MHRA, antimalarial tablets have been reclassified as over the counter (OTC) medicines and can now be purchased at pharmacies without prescription from a doctor.

Dr Sarah Branch from the MHRA said in a statement “Malaria is a very serious disease and taking adequate protection when travelling to malaria infected zones can be life-saving. Today’s move to make another antimalarial more widely available will make it more easy to access”. She added “A full consultation with a healthcare professional is always recommended before you go to places where malaria is prevalent and pharmacists are well placed to help direct travellers to additional sources of information and advice”.

In line with the MHRA’s advice, anyone planning to travel to an area where malaria is a risk will still need to discuss their medication with a pharmacist first.
The aim is to protect travellers from returning to the UK infected with the disease. In 2014, 1,586 people were diagnosed with malaria, including three fatalities, after returning to the UK from travelling to malaria risk countries.

Pharmacist consultation The pharmacist will ensure the medication travellers are taking is suitable, the area they are travelling to, any health conditions and concomitant medications they are taking.

The pharmacist will also be able to advise how to avoid mosquito bites, use of repellents, nets and appropriate clothing to cover the skin. They will also discuss the need for any vaccinations prior to travel to certain regions.

According to Martin Astbury, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, “Pharmacists already offer a full range of travel advice and in some cases vaccinations. Malaria prevention is a well-established area of expertise for pharmacists and a great opportunity to provide full travel advice to people travelling anywhere in the world. Pharmacists have access to up to date information and resources and are very well equipped to provide this medicine safely and appropriately.”