Low-Strength Melatonin Will No Longer Require Prescription

melatonin iceland

Following a recent statement by the Icelandic Medicines Agency, Lyfjastofnun, melatonin under a concentration of 1 mg/ day will no longer require a prescription.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body which is released to regulate our sleeping cycles. It is often taken as a dietary supplement and as a medication to treat sleep disorders.

Up until now, melatonin has been classified as a medicine under Icelandic law, regardless of strength. In many other countries, however, melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement and is available without prescription. According to the Icelandic Medicines Agency, these differences in regulation between countries have caused confusion among both Icelanders and tourists, who have purchased melatonin abroad legally, but were not allowed to bring it into the country. In recent years, some of the Nordic countries have decided to allow over-the-counter sale of melatonin in low doses. In other countries, such as the United States, melatonin is sold in higher doses with no prescription needed.

Earlier this year, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, MAST, requested a reconsideration of melatonin’s classification status. Low-dose melatonin will now be available without prescription, as long as the marketing and packaging makes no claim to treat disease or act as a preventative measure.


New Regulations on Rx Pick-Up Take Effect

New regulations governing the pick-up of prescription medication will go into effect next week. Per a statement on the on Government of Iceland website, starting on Tuesday, March 10, medication will only be given over to the person to whom the prescription was written, or to someone who has that person’s express written authorisation. Anyone who is picking up a prescription will be required to show valid identification.

These changes are going into effect on the basis of incidents where medication has been given over to someone other than the prescription holder without their authorisation and thus represents a violation of privacy.

Authorisation for a proxy to pick up medication must be in writing and must also bear the signatures of two witnesses, along with their full names and kennitala (Iceland’s national ID number). The original authorisation or a copy of it will then be kept at the pharmacy. This authorisation can specify if the proxy is empowered to pick up any medication on behalf of the prescription holder for an indefinite period of time or just a single medication for a limited amount of time. Parents are permitted to pick up medication for children 16 years and younger without written authorisation.

Iceland, Denmark, and Norway Collaborate to Lower Drug Prices

Prozac pills

Iceland will collaborate with Danish and Norwegian authorities to aim to lower the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, RÚV reports. An agreement between the countries was signed in Reykjavík yesterday. María Heimisdóttir, CEO of Icelandic Health Insurance (IHI), says the co-operation is not only about lowering drug prices for the public, but also patient safety.

“There have been too many examples of drug shortages happening and we firmly expect that purchasing [pharmaceuticals] in larger quantities with our neighbouring countries could reduce drug shortages and thus increase patient safety and that’s of course the most important thing,” María stated. She added that pharmaceutical drugs have often been priced higher in Iceland than other countries, an issue which the project also hopes to address.

Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir told reporters it was “very gratifying” to see the collaboration realised, as the project has been in the works for a long time. By launching joint invitations to pharmaceutical companies to bid on the sale of products, Svandís explained, the trio of countries would be in a better position to negotiate lower prices, particularly for certain types of very expensive drugs. Svandís refrained from commenting on which specific drugs were in question, though she stated her hope that the project would start having an impact in the next year or so.

Investigate 20 Prescription Drug-Related Deaths

Twenty deaths involving prescription drugs are under investigation by police in the capital area, RÚVreports. Detective Chief Superintendent Karl Steinar Valsson says that drug dealers are increasingly turning toward selling prescription drugs, not least because the penalties for selling them are far less severe than for selling illegal narcotics.

Opioids, and young people’s abuse of these drugs, have been a topic of much discussion of late, particularly as opioid use has increased in the last six months.

“This year, we have around 20 deaths investigations here in the capital,” said Karl Steinar. “In some instances, these are cases of suicide, in other cases not—or at any rate, the investigations haven’t shown that.”

The deaths have involved a wide variety of drugs and in some cases, a mixture of prescription drugs and illegal narcotics. Karl Steinar says that the landscape is changing.

“The people who have been selling narcotics have also been shifting over to selling prescription medications that they procure in a variety of ways. And maybe only because the market has in some way opened up to this—it’s both that the availability of prescriptions has increased and that users are prepared to buy these drugs. It seems like it must be very profitable, because otherwise, people wouldn’t do it. And then, of course, the sales model for this is naturally always shifting more and more to the internet.”

There is also the fact that penalties for selling prescription drugs are far less severe than those for selling illegal narcotics. “…That’s of course one reason that people involved in these kinds of illegal activities—often organized crime operations—look to this. Because the punishments are much lighter.”

It’s also clear that some people who are written prescriptions by their doctors are selling those medications on the black market. Karl Steinar says that this is on the increase in Iceland and is something that requires urgent attention.