Tighter laws urged for paracetamol

Retailers should be prevented from offering multi-pack deals on paracetamol, says the UK’s Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Earlier this month the Which? group conducted an investigation into how independent and high street pharmacies handled two scenarios: a researcher attempting to buy four packs of paracetamol, and a researcher attempting to buy two OTC ibuprofen products together.

Up to one in three pharmacies may not be offering adequate safety advice and counselling during such transactions, the investigation concluded.

The paracetamol strategy involved non-pharmacy outlets including Poundland, a variety chain store, which was offering three 16-tablet packs of paracetamol for £1 (AUD$1.78).

Following the investigation RPS has renewed calls to strengthen laws around the sale of multiple packets of paracetamol, Chemist+Druggist reports.

Currently in the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Guidelines do not allow for more than two packets to be sold in one transaction. The sale of more than 100 tablets or capsules of paracetamol or aspirin in one transaction is illegal.

RPS president Ash Soni told C+D that the Society “would like to see legislation to stop retailers offering multibuy deals on paracetamol”.

“The sale of medicines brings added responsibilities to retailers, because of the potential harm if they are not taken correctly,” he said.

“This responsibility for medicines safety cannot be guaranteed merely through voluntary codes of conduct. Those codes are being openly flouted.

“It’s time to change the law and stop retailers putting profits before patient safety.”

Poundland came under fire from the Numark pharmacy group for its response to C+D when questioned about the three-pack offer.

“We’re Poundland. Which means we sell most things for £1. That’s why we sell three packets together,” said a spokesperson.

“If we sold one packet we’d have to call ourselves 33p-land.”

Numark’s director of marketing and development Mandeep Mudhar said the comments were “completely inappropriate”.

“Presumably someone at the company thought they were being humorous and didn’t realise that actually this is quite a serious medicine that has restrictions in terms of sales volumes,” he said.

He said the chain should not be permitted to sell drugs “without regulatory oversight”.

Stakeholders in Australia have also argued for greater restrictions on OTC analgesics, particularly ibuprofen, following an interim decision by the Advisory Committees on Chemicals and Medicines Scheduling to retain current pack sizes and leave the medicine available in non-pharmacy channels.

“I think the risks of anti-inflammatory drugs is being downplayed, and they can be especially downplayed in an open-selling environment,” said PSA president Dr Shane Jackson last week.

“We want ibuprofen only available in pharmacies. You get the availability of a pharmacist, and you get the environment where people can actually access advice if required.”

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