Availability of Paracetamol Sold Over the Counter in Europe: A Descriptive Cross-Sectional International Survey of Pack Size Restriction.
Morthorst BR., Erlangsen A., Nordentoft M., Hawton K., Hoegberg LCG., Dalhoff KP.
Due to the risk of hepatotoxicity when excessive amounts of paracetamol are consumed, Poisons Information Centers (PICs) frequently receive paracetamol-related enquiries. This study examined how widely pack size restrictions of paracetamol sold over the counter have been implemented in Europe and also availability of paracetamol through non-pharmacy outlets and their possible associations with frequency of poisoning enquiries. A cross-sectional European multi-centre questionnaire study was performed using a questionnaire to identify the extent and nature of paracetamol pack size restrictions, non-pharmacy outlet sales and the frequency of paracetamol-related enquiries to PICs. In total, 21 European countries participated. All PICs provided telephone hotline services. In 14 (67%) countries, pack size restrictions had been implemented in pharmacies (range: 8-30 g). No significant difference (median difference 0.7%, p-value = 0.36) was found when comparing median frequencies of paracetamol-related enquiries in countries with pack size restriction to countries without restrictions. A significantly lower median frequency of paracetamol-related enquiries was found in countries without non-pharmacy outlet sales compared to those with such sales (median difference 2.2%, p = 0.02). Pack size restrictions on pharmacy sales of paracetamol have been implemented in two-thirds of examined countries. There was no difference in the proportion of paracetamol-related enquiries to PICs among countries with and without pack size restrictions. However, a lower rate of paracetamol-related enquiries was noted in countries where paracetamol was not available in non-pharmacy outlets.