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Smaller Paracetamol Packs Reduce Deaths


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Smaller Paracetamol packets have reduced deaths
Have we a rare good news story? It has been reported that the smaller size of paracetamol packets have reduced the number of deaths.

Since 1998 the size of paracetamol packs that can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or supermarket have been limited by law. This has lead to a 43% decrease in deaths from poisoning. This reduction is based on long-term analysis looking at the incidence of paracetamol-related deaths and paracetamol-related liver transplants defore and after the new law was introduced between 1993 to 2009.

Researchers also found a 61% reduction in the number of people needing a liver transplant as a result of a paracetamol overdose. This appears to suggest that the change in the law has been successful however, there are still a large number of deaths due to paracetamol overdose every year, and further action is needed.

The law on paracetamol packs
People often say what's to stop someone going to different pharmacies or online and buying as much paracetamol as they want from different places but this misses the point of the 1998 law. The thinking behind the limit on paracetamol pack sizes is that most suicidal behaviour is impulsive. People often use what is closest at hand. So making paracetamol packs smaller means that it is less likely a suicidal person would have ready access to dangerous amounts of paracetamol.

Getting help for suicidal thoughts
If you are feeling suicidal you can:
  • call the Samaritans support service on 08457 90 90 90
  • go to your nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
  • contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647
  • speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
  • visit your pharmacy and ask to talk to the pharmacist
  • make an urgent appointment to see your GP

 

Despite a number of other factors it does seem likely that the law introduced in 1998 has had a positive effect.

There are still a large number of deaths due to paracetamol overdose every year (around 150–200 on average in England and Wales), and more can be done to reduce this.

If you or anyone you know have any questions about paracetamol or any other medicine or are concerned about any issues affecting you or anyone you know your local pharmacy is always accessible and on hand with confidential, friendly advice.

 


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