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Fall in paracetamol overdoses

8th February 2013

Legislation to change the pack sizes for paracetamol has led to a fall in overdoses, according to an Oxford University study.

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Laws were passed in 1998 which restricted the pack sizes to 32 tablets in pharmacies in the UK and 16 tablets in other outlets.

Since then, figures show that deaths from paracetamol overdoses fell by 43% in England and Wales, though there has not been a fall in those taking paracetamol overdoses.

Overdoses of paracetamol are a common method of attempted suicidebut also lead to liver damage.

The Oxford findings, published in the BMJ, focussed on Office for National Statistics figures on deaths involving paracetamol in people aged 10 and over between 1993 and 2009.

They found there were 765 fewer deaths after the legislation was introduced in 1998 as well as a 61% reduction in the number of patients registered for liver transplants.

Professor Keith Hawton, lead researcher from the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research, said while hospital management of paracetamol overdoses would have had some effect on the fall, he said much had been due to the introduction of the legislation.

“We are extremely pleased that this measure has had such benefits, but think that more needs to be done to reduce the toll of deaths from this cause,” he said.

Samaritans’ chief executive Catherine Johnstone said it was encouraging to see that legislation was able to have an effect on reducing suicides.

However, the charity Mind warned that more people were taking their own lives since the start of the recession.

 

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