Otago Daily Times

Med­safe to con­sider rec­om­men­da­tions on parac­eta­mol sales

- MIKE HOULAHAN Health · Pharmaceutical Industry · Industries · Dunedin · University of Otago · Otago · Wellington, New Zealand · Centre · New Zealand · Johnson & Johnson · GlaxoSmithKline · David Robinson

MED­SAFE’S medicines clas­si­fi­ca­tion com­mit­tee will to­day con­sider coro­nial rec­om­men­da­tions about the sale of parac­eta­mol made af­ter the in­quest into the death of a Dunedin stu­dent.

Alan­nah Lee Spankie (20) died from acute liver fail­ure in June 2017, af­ter the Univer­sity of Otago science stu­dent took a large amount of parac­eta­mol.

Coro­ner David Robin­son last month found that Ms Spankie had not in­tended to take her own life, and rec­om­mended tighter sales re­stric­tions be placed on drugs which can cur­rently be bought with­out con­trols at su­per­mar­kets.

The com­mit­tee re­ceived 18 sub­mis­sions on Mr Robin­son’s rec­om­men­da­tions be­fore to­day’s meet­ing, be­ing held in Welling­ton.

The Na­tional Poi­sons Cen­tre, based at the Univer­sity of Otago, said in ad­vice pro­vided to the com­mit­tee that parac­eta­mol was the most com­mon sin­gle sub­stance in­volved in cases of in­ten­tional self­poi­son­ing, and the sub­stance it re­ceived the most in­quiries about.

In the last five months of 2016 there were four cases in­volv­ing peo­ple who took 30g or more of the drug, cen­tre records showed.

In 2020, up un­til Oc­to­ber 12, there were 54 such cases.

‘‘Con­tacts to the cen­tre are a re­flec­tion of ex­po­sures oc­cur­ring in the New Zealand com­mu­nity,’’ cen­tre di­rec­tor Adam Pomer­leau said.

‘‘This data sug­gests that parac­eta­mol ex­po­sures re­quir­ing med­i­cal as­sess­ment, and mas­sive parac­eta­mol over­doses, are likely oc­cur­ring with in­creas­ing fre­quency over time.’’

Dr Pomer­leau cau­tioned that the cen­tre recorded only in­for­ma­tion given by in­di­vid­u­als so the ac­tual ex­tent of the prob­lem was un­cer­tain, as was whether the avail­abil­ity of parac­eta­mol was a fac­tor.

‘‘How­ever, a rea­son­able hy­poth­e­sis would be that lim­it­ing avail­abil­ity could limit op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­pul­sive in­ten­tional self­poi­son­ings.’’

The Phar­macy Guild said that it sup­ported some re­stric­tions on parac­eta­mol sales, par­tic­u­larly from gen­eral re­tail­ers, but did not agree with all of the coro­ner’s pro­posed quan­ti­ties.

‘‘We are con­cerned that gen­eral sale re­tail out­lets do not have the ex­per­tise to pro­vide the level of ad­vice and sup­port re­quired to en­sure suf­fi­cient pub­lic safety for a medicine such as parac­eta­mol when sold as a gen­eral sale medicine,’’ guild mem­ber­ship and pro­fes­sional ser­vices man­ager Nicole Rick­man said.

‘‘There­fore, lim­it­ing the pack size to 16 x 500mg parac­eta­mol tablets per trans­ac­tion when sold by re­tail out­lets will not ef­fec­tively ad­dress the is­sues of un­in­ten­tional over­dose and harm re­duc­tion.’’

Parac­eta­mol was the most com­monly used pain re­lief medicine in New Zealand and was usu­ally safe if taken at the rec­om­mended doses, she said.

‘‘We are com­fort­able when parac­eta­mol is sold through the phar­macy chan­nel it is safe and con­trolled.’’

Drug com­pany John­son and John­son said there was no cur­rent or his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence of wide­spread in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of parac­eta­mol con­tain­ing cold and flu prod­ucts.

The firm called for parac­eta­mol’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion and sale reg­u­la­tion to re­main the same, but sup­ported bet­ter in­for­ma­tion for con­sumers on how to use parac­eta­mol safely.

Glaxo Smith Kline also sup­ported the sta­tus quo for parac­eta­mol’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but agreed a two­packet pur­chase limit out­side of phar­ma­cies would help, as would a gov­ern­ment­backed pub­lic in­for­ma­tion cam­paign.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand