Intended for healthcare professionals


Limitation of over the counter sales of paracetamol

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 12 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1657

Packaging policy is unlikely to achieve its aim of reducing suicide

  1. Mike Cranney, General practitioner,
  2. Julie Cranney, Health visitor (retired),
  3. Helen Stubbs, Assistant pharmaceutical adviser
  1. St Helens, Merseyside WA10 5HP
  2. Liverpool Health Authority, Liverpool L3 6AL
  3. Department of Medicine, Withybush General Hospital, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA61 2PZ

    EDITOR—New regulations to limit the availability of aspirin and paracetamol came into effect on 16 September.1 The number of tablets or capsules per pack has been limited to 16 in supermarkets and 32 in pharmacies, although multiple packs can be bought. Pharmacists can provide up to 100 tablets at their discretion for patients with chronic conditions, but greater amounts now require a prescription. Supermarkets may also sell 100 tablets, albeit in packs of 16.

    The health of the nation target was a 15% reduction in overall suicide rates by 2000.2 These packaging regulations aspire to reduce the incidence of deliberate and accidental overdose, but we believe that their effect will be limited. No single intervention was found to reduce suicide.3 The authors commented that measures to reduce the quantity of medicines available over the counter …

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