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Epilepsy drug shortage spurs buying limit

The tranquilizer, marketed in Finland as Rivatril, is used to treat a range of disorders but is also sold as a street drug.

Farmaseutti järjestää apteekin hyllyä selin kameraan.
Pharmacists may only dispense three months' worth of clonazepam pills at a time (file photo). Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle
Yle News

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has decided to limit the sale of medicines containing clonazepam due to availability problems.

The drug, which is sold in Finland under the brand name Rivatril and elsewhere as Rivotril or Klonopin, is used to treat types of epileptic seizures that are difficult to counter otherwise.

On Wednesday, the ministry said that pharmacies may only dispense three months' worth of tablets containing clonazepam at a time, except under exceptional circumstances.

"A pharmacy can deviate from the restriction for a particularly compelling reason in order to secure the continuity of the customer's necessary medical treatment," the ministry said in a statement.

There have been disruptions in the availability of Rivatril throughout the EU since last autumn.

The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea predicts that supply problems will continue at least until the end of March.

Last October, the agency granted temporary special licenses for two types of clonazepam tablets due to availability problems affecting Rivatril 0.5 mg and 2 mg pills.

Besides epilepsy, clonazepam is also prescribed for muscle spasms, anxiety, panic disorder, restless legs syndrome and other conditions.

As a tranquilizer of the benzodiazepine class, it can create dependence if taken for more than a month at a time, and is sometimes sold as a street drug.

In late 2020, Helsinki police seized more than 200,000 illegal pills, primarily Rivotril, from what it said was a Romanian criminal gang.

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