Impact of paracetamol pack size restrictions on poisoning from paracetamol in England and Wales: an observational study.

Morgan, O; Griffiths, C; Majeed, A; (2005) Impact of paracetamol pack size restrictions on poisoning from paracetamol in England and Wales: an observational study. Journal of public health (Oxford, England), 27 (1). pp. 19-24. ISSN 1741-3842 DOI:

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BACKGROUND: About 500 drug poisoning deaths involving paracetamol (acetaminophen) occur every year in England and Wales. To reduce the number of deaths, regulations were introduced in 1998 to restrict the sale of paracetamol. In this paper, we evaluate the impact of these regulations. METHODS: Mortality data for England and Wales were provided by the Office for National Statistics. Deaths were defined as due to compound paracetamol (paracetamol in combination with another analgesic, a low dose opioid or other ingredients) or paracetamol only, with or without alcohol or other drugs. The Department of Health provided data on all hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of paracetamol poisoning. RESULTS: Mortality rates for paracetamol only were similar for males and females, and decreased from about 4.5 to 2.8 per million between 1997 and 1999 and again from about 3.1 to 2.2 per million between 2001 and 2002. These falls may be attributable to random variation in the rates. Deaths involving compound paracetamol, which were not subject to the 1998 regulations, remained relatively constant over the study period. There was evidence of a decreasing trend in paracetamol only mortality rates and this followed overall trends for other drug poisoning excluding opioids and drugs of misuse. Hospital admissions due to paracetamol poisoning increased from about 27 000 to 33 000 between 1995/1996 and 1997/1998 and then decreased to 25 000 in 2001/2002. There were almost 50 per cent more admissions for females than males, with the highest admission rates amongst females aged 15-24 years old. CONCLUSIONS: Between 1993 and 2002, mortality rates and hospital admissions due to paracetamol poisoning declined. However, the contribution of the 1998 regulations to this decline is not clear. Paracetamol poisoning continues to be an important public health issue in England and Wales and represents significant workload for the NHS in England.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 15637104
Web of Science ID: 227565700004


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