A CORONER has called for tougher regulations on the sale of over-the-counter medication after a Whitefield woman died when she became addicted to Nurofen Plus.

Linda Docherty (49) a local government worker, would secretly take up to 48 tablets a day by trawling supermarket pharmacies and high street chemists to feed her habit.

Mrs Docherty, of Beech Avenue, confessed the two-year addiction to her husband Robert and her GP just four days before her death.

Bury Coroner Simon Nelson said that "lessons must be learned" from the tragedy and that the system of buying such medication should be re-examined. Nurofen Plus contains ibuprofen and the opiate codeine phosphate, which is addictive.

Described as a highly intelligent woman who "lived for her family", Mrs Docherty first started to take the painkillers when she had a stomach ulcer and toothache. Her family noticed packets in the kitchen but had no idea of the scale of the problem.

On some days Mrs Docherty, a mother-of-two, took as many as 64 tablets.

Husband Robert said: "She must have navigated the whole area to buy these drugs.

"I knew that there was something happening for some time before the events started to unfold. I tackled her time and time again to ask her what she was doing and what she was hiding but she was fiercely secretive.

"I was aware of seeing packets here and there but she mostly hid them. I had no idea to what extent the tablet taking was going on. Linda was a very intelligent person and I think that her intellect formed part of her problems. She turned in on herself without talking to others. She was very insular and private."

The inquest heard evidence from her GP Dr Nicolas Walton who said: "She admitted to me that she had been taking 48 Nurofen Plus for several months."

Dr Walton said he had concerns about possible "severe withdrawal symptoms" and hoped to wean her off the tablets gradually. He described her death as "tragic and unexpected".

Mrs Docherty told her sister Gillian White about her addiction the night before she died in March. Mrs White said: "I had not realised that it Nurofen Plus was addictive. I thought that it was something she took occasionally when symptoms of anxiety were coming on."

Coroner Mr Nelson said: "If a reconsideration of controls manages to save a further life then I believe that the action would be appropriate. I believe that Mrs Docherty had passed a dependency. It had become an addiction.

"I do have concerns, having heard of Mrs Docherty's attempts to procure the medication and how easy it is to defeat the system should one wish to do so. I feel that the system has to be looked at again. I am proposing to write to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society asking them to take on board the facts as I have found them and to ask them to consider whether the requirements they have are sufficiently rigorous to deal with this type of addiction."

Mr Docherty supported the coroner's viewpoint and said that customers should be asked for identification and pharmacies and supermarkets should be linked by computer to monitor sales.

Mrs Docherty suffered from depression and anxiety and was taking prescribed anti-depressants. She was taken to Fairfield Hospital, the day before she died after complaining of feeling weak and breathless. She died from acute renal failure as a result of anti-inflammatory abuse.

Mr Nelson recorded that she died "by reason of an addiction to over-the-counter medication".

He said: "Neither the family nor the clinicians would have been at all aware of the underlying difficulties that were being faced by Mrs Docherty and the turmoil that her mind must have been in whether to volunteer the information."

Mandie Lavin, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said Nurofen Plus could be re-classified as a result of the case.

Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Nurofen Plus, said Mrs Docherty's intake far exceeded the recommended and approved dose - a maximum of six tablets daily. A spokesman said: "The Nurofen Plus labelling clearly states patients should not exceed six tablets in 24 hours."