Updated paracetamol restrictions

ParacetamolIn 1997, the United Kingdom’s Medicines Control Agency brought in guidelines restricting the sale of paracetamol (acetaminophen). They limited sales to 16 tablets from supermarkets and 32 in pharmacies [1]. Intended to reduce the suicide rate through paracetamol overdose, a University of Oxford 2013 study estimated the restrictions had reduced suicide rates by 43%.

Critics of the regulations pointed out there was nothing stopping someone from visiting multiple pharmacies and purchasing as many paracetamol as they wished. I’m pleased to report that the UK government has now closed this loophole.

From today, 1st April 2023, once you have used a pack of paracetamol, you can only purchase fresh drug upon presentation of an empty blister pack. Most pharmacies, including Boots, Lloyds, Morrisons, Tesco and Superdrug, have introduced refillable blister pack technology into their stores, in oder to cut down on waste. There are still some questions to be ironed out, such as how the scheme works with on-line purchases. There are also some in the UK government who say the new legislation is contrary to their political philosophy of deregulation.

Despite these questions, from today, when purchasing paracetamol, please remember to take the empty blister pack with you for a refill.

[1] Committee on Safety of Medicines; Medicines Control Agency. Paracetamol and aspirin. Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance. 1997;23:9. 

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