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Lichfield MP disappointed by Government stance on paracetamol sales

A paracetamol tablet. Pic: Sam Catchesides

A paracetamol tablet. Pic: Sam Catchesides

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has called on the Government to lift the cap on the amount of paracetamol, aspirin, and other similar medicines that can be bought over the counter.

And he also admitted he was disappointed by a Parliamentary written response he received from Gillian Merron, the Minister for Public Health, over the issue.

Mr Fabricant had asked whether any plans were in place to lift the cap on the amount of antipyretics allowed to be purchased in the wake of the swine flu outbreak.

But in the response, the Minister for Public Health said there were  “no current plans to change” the current limit – two 16 tablet packs of paracetamol and aspirin per person.

Mr Fabricant said, however, that swine flu had meant a need to raise the limit. He added:

“I am aware that in some cases there has been drug abuse with these common medicines.  But with the number of swine flu infections increasing in the West Midlands and elsewhere, the Government should lift the restriction on the amount of simple antipyretics, drugs which reduce fever, that can be sold over the counter at any one time.

“Not everyone has a ‘flu buddy’ to do the shopping for them.  Even that flu buddy might unwittingly be spreading the disease.  Fewer visits to supermarkets and chemists would help limit the spread of swine flu.  And I know that many sales assistants at supermarkets have been abused by customers when they have been refused the sale of more than a handful of capsules.  ”

The Minister for Public Health said in her written response:

“Larger packs of 32 tablets or capsules are designated as pharmacy medicines and are sold by or under the supervision of a pharmacist. Pharmacists have the professional discretion to sell up to 100 tablets or capsules without a prescription if they consider this is in the best interests of the patient. The need for professional advice and supervision when supplying these medicines does not reduce during a pandemic.”

Mr Fabricant continued:

“I am disappointed by that response.  Most people buying aspirin, paracetamol, and similar medicines do not abuse the drug.  Education as to how to best use common drugs is the answer – not the nanny state while we face a flu pandemic on the scale of the present outbreak”.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Vincent

    22nd July, 2009 at 8:30 am

    The present limit is a particularly effective piece of nannying which achieves nothing: those with no intention to abuse the drugs have the inconvenience of often running out of antipyretics during cold/flu season (plus losing the per-unit-cost advantages of buying in bulk), whilst anyone who truly did intend to abuse these drugs could simply walk down any high street, popping into 3 or 4 different chemists and supermarkets, and very quickly accumulate a “dangerous” quantity. Demonstrably ineffective in its stated purpose, serving only to annoy the innocent.