Melatonin is a hormone released at night by the pineal gland located in the brain. Melatonin controls the sleep-wake cycle (24-hour cycle). In other words, Melatonin acts as a biological clock that regulates sleep. Melatonin, therefore, can be used to promote and regulate sleep (Wagner et al., 1998). This post answers the question: Can you get Melatonin over the counter in the UK? Additionally, the availability of different areas of Melatonin supply in the UK will be discussed.
Is Melatonin Effective Sleep Aid Medicine?
In the UK, licensed forms of Melatonin are prescribed either to manage Insomnia in adults over 55 years of age or to help with jet lag.
Cochrane Collaboration (a world-wide collaboration of scientists) looked at the effectiveness of Melatonin in the management o jet lags.
Cochrane looked at a number of trials that involved airline passengers, airline staff, and military personnel who used Melatonin or placebo ( a dummy pill) to evaluate the effectiveness of Melatonin.
Cochrane concluded that Melatonin is ‘remarkably effective in preventing or reducing jet lag. It also concluded that short-term use of Melatonin is safe (Herxheimer & Petrie, 2002).
Can You Get Melatonin Over The Counter In The UK?
The supply of prescription-only medicines is possible after a prescription (NHS or private prescription) is issued to the patient by a doctor or another qualified prescriber.
In the UK, Melatonin is classified as a prescription-only medication.
Unlike in other countries (for example USA), you cannot purchase Melatonin in the UK as a supplement.
What Is Melatonin Available On Prescription In The UK?
1. Circadin Tablets
The most popular form of Melatonin dispensed in the UK is Circadin 2 mg prolonged-release tablets.
The licensed use of Circadin is as follows:
The poor quality of sleep characterises the short-term treatment of Insomnia in patients aged 55 or over.
Circadin is often prescribed off-license to children and adolescents despite this well-defined licensed use. An increase in prescribing can be seen for Circadin when looking at the most popular prescription sleeping pills.
2. Melatonin 2mg, 3mg and 5mg capsules (Generic)
Both medicines are used for the short-term treatment of jet lag in adults.
3. Slenyto 1mg and 5mg prolonged-release tablets
Slenyto tablets have a specific licensed use. Slenyto can be used by children and adolescents aged 2-18 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Smith-Magenis syndrome to treat Insomnia when lifestyle changes do not produce satisfactory results.
4. Syncrodin 3 mg film-coated tablets
Sycrodin tablets are licensed as a short-term treatment of jet lag in adults.
5. Melatonin liquid (oral melatonin solution)
Melatonin liquid is a prescription item. Each 1ml of Melatonin contains 1mg of Melatonin. Melatonin solution is licensed for short-term management of jet lag in adults.
Can You Get Melatonin On Amazon.co.uk?
When searching for Melatonin supplements on Amazon.co.uk, plenty of products are described as ‘natural melatonin source’ or ‘natural melatonin’ (see example below); however, none contain Melatonin.
How To Get Melatonin In The UK?
1. Getting Melatonin Prescribed By NHS Doctor
The most appropriate way of getting Melatonin in the UK is by having it prescribed. Individuals who experience a jet-lag or seek temporary aid to their sleeping problems may contact their GP and discuss the possible use of Melatonin.
Alternatively, over-the-counter sleeping medicines such as sedative antihistamines can be used as a temporary aid to sleeping problems. See the next section.
2. Buying Melatonin From UK Online Pharmacies (Private Service)
A number of online pharmacies (for example, UKMeds, and TheOnlineClinic) offer private services by which patients can buy prescription-only medicines after online consultation takes place (usually a screening questionnaire).
Online consultation covers general health questions, including questions about any concomitant conditions.
A doctor then reviews the screening questionnaire and issues a private prescription to deliver drugs to the patient’s home. Consultation fees are usually included in the total price of prescribed medicines.
3. Getting Melatonin On A Private Prescription
It would be possible to get Melatonin from a doctor’s private prescription after a private consultation (Online GP services or Private consultation). A number of online GP services provide personal consultation services. Alternatively, similar services may be offered for individuals with private insurance.
The difference between this and the previously discussed route is that a private prescription is issued, which patients need to take to a pharmacy to get a supply of Melatonin. When a drug is supplied on a private prescription, a patient needs to cover the cost of medication and any additional supply fees, regardless of their age or NHS exemption. Read more about private prescriptions.
4. Buying Melatonin From Abroad
In many countries, including the USA, Melatonin is classified as a supplement and is available over the counter. Non-UK websites such as Amazon.com and eBay list Melatonin on websites. See the following paragraph for more details.
Can You Import Melatonin For Personal Use?
It is possible to buy Melatonin from abroad, for example, from the USA (Amazon.com, eBay.com), and import it for personal use. It is illegal to sell or redistribute imported Melatonin in the UK since Melatonin is classified as prescription-only medicine in the UK.
Please note the higher delivery cost to the UK. You may also have to pay import duty tax, contributing to the high price.
Melatonin – Alternative Medicines Available Over The Counter
The mainstream management of temporary sleep disorders in the UK involves using sedative antihistamines, most of which are available without a prescription from the pharmacy.
Common antihistamines used in sleeping pills include:
- Diphenhydramine (for example, Nytol)
- Promethazine (for instance, Sominex)
Read more about over-the-counter sleeping pills in our previous posts.
Can You Get Melatonin Over The Counter In The UK? – Conclusion
Melatonin offers a great alternative to prescription sleeping drugs such as benzodiazepines, antihistamines, antidepressants, and over-the-counter sleeping medicines.
Unlike most sleeping drugs, Melatonin does not produce dependence and addiction. Side effects are not commonly experienced when taking Melatonin. This makes Melatonin a more suitable medication for temporarily managing sleeping disorders and jet lags.
Reclassifying Melatonin from prescription-only medicine to pharmacy-only medicine (drug available from pharmacies only) would be reasonable.