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 21 April 2018

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News

Smaller packs of analgesics have reduced overdose deaths

The number of deaths from self-poisoning with acetaminophen (paracetamol) and salicylates has decreased significantly since legislation limiting the number of tablets per pack was introduced, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

News image

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The legislation was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1998.

Data including drug-related deaths, cases of liver poisoning, numbers of liver transplantations, and sales data, were used to assess the impact of the legislation.

Annual death decrease after legislation:
Acetaminophen poisoning: 21%;
Salicylate poisoning: 48%
BMJ

The number of tablets in packets of acetaminophen and salicylate preparations decreased markedly in the 12 months after the legislation.

The annual number of deaths from acetaminophen poisoning decreased by 21%, and the number from salicylates decreased by 48%.

There was also a decrease in the number of liver transplants and admission to liver units with acetaminophen poisoning, and in the number of overdoses of acetaminophen and salicylates in which large numbers of tablets were taken.

The legislation has been relatively successful, say the authors, with the results indicating that the main factor was the reduction in the number of tablets per pack.

An even smaller maximum pack size for pharmacy sales might have had a greater impact still, they conclude.

BMJ 2001; 322: 1203-7
22 May 2001

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