Smaller packages against suicide

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Smaller packages of paracetamol can prevent overdose

Pain relievers with the active ingredient paracetamol are only available in pharmacies in Germany in small pack sizes without a prescription. It has been discussed for some time now to further regulate the dispensing of the funds to the patients, since there are always overdoses and deaths. A study by the University of Oxford in England found that smaller pack sizes between 1998 and 2009 caused a 43 percent decrease in suicide or accidental deaths related to acetaminophen.

Even small amounts of paracetamol can lead to an overdose. Paracetamol is a pain reliever that children are given in small doses, for example for toothache, to be taken by mouth. The drug is generally considered to be well tolerated. Nevertheless, the dosage of paracetamol must be done carefully, because an overdose leads to poisoning and liver damage. In the worst case, it ends in death. The recommended maximum daily dose of paracetamol for an adult is three to four grams. But even small amounts can be dangerous. If a patient takes paracetamol for a period of several consecutive days with toothache, a dose that is hazardous to health could be reached, as the head of the Erfurt poison emergency call, Helmut Hentschel, informs. The specialist in pharmacology and toxicology therefore advocates a general prescription requirement for paracetamol.

Smaller packets of paracetamol cause 43 percent fewer deaths A research group at the University of Oxford in England examined the effects of smaller pack sizes of paracetamol in the UK. Accordingly, the number of deaths from suicide or unintentional overdose of paracetamol decreased by 43 percent between 1998 and 2009. As the researchers report in the journal "British Medical Journal" (BMJ), the regulation for smaller pack sizes was introduced in 1998 for precisely this reason. Since then, packs sold in pharmacies may contain a maximum of 32 tablets and packs that do not require a pharmacy may contain 16 tablets According to the new regulation, there was a conspicuously high number of deaths and liver transplants that were associated with poisoning with acetaminophen.

However, the researchers are reluctant to comment on the success of the smaller packs. "Despite the obvious benefits, there are still a significant number of deaths averaging 121 per year due to acetaminophen poisoning," said an accompanying article to the study. "The researchers are proposing further measures to lower the death rate, such as stricter law enforcement, even smaller pack sizes and a possible reduction in the paracetamol content of the tablets." (ag)

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