UK watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has this month opened a public consultation on proposals to allow the sale of medicines on planes and trains.

The Agency is looking into extending the scope of General Sale List (GSL) medicines - i.e. those which can be sold or supplied with reasonable safety at non-pharmacy premises such as supermarkets.

The move was spurred by the government's Red Tape Challenge that aims to slash bureaucracy, as well as findings from an informal consultation, which suggested there may be benefits for public health in that individuals would have increased availability to medicines, such as being able to get nicotine replacement products on a long-haul flight or treat minor self-limiting ailments. 

In addition, introducing an exemption to medicines legislation to permit the sale of GSL medicines on trains and aircraft should generate additional sales for the GSL-producing industry, the MHRA noted.

Responses to the consultation are yet to be be published, but so far opinion seems mixed.

Claire Ward, chief executive of the Independent Pharmacy Federation, reportedly said "given that discount stores and similar places can sell these medicines it would be irrational to argue that planes and trains should not do so too," but Neal Patel, spokesperson for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, stressed that the society considered pharmacists to be the "best source of advice about medicines", according to Chemist + Druggist.