Poisons expert Professor Geoff Isbister backs the idea of paracetamol restrictions

Tablet Trouble: Paracetamol is getting more scrutiny.
Tablet Trouble: Paracetamol is getting more scrutiny.

A Newcastle poisons expert has joined calls for restrictions to paracetamol.

The common pain medication is the number one pharmaceutical that Australian poisons centres receive calls about.

"This is because it is the most available medication - it is in everyone's cupboard and easy to buy large amounts of," said Professor Geoff Isbister, of the University of Newcastle's Clinical Toxicology Research Group.

Professor Isbister, whose research is based at the Calvary Mater hospital at Waratah, contributed to a Medical Journal of Australia article about paracetamol poisoning-related hospital admissions and deaths in Australia from 2004 to 2017.

The article called for measures that restrict the availability of paracetamol, such as reducing non-prescription pack sizes, to stem the increasing number of paracetamol overdoses.

Professor Isbister said the idea made sense.

"Similar things were done in the UK about a decade or more ago, and this did have an effect on deaths and overdoses," he said.

The medical journal article said paracetamol was "the most frequent cause of acute liver failure in the Western world".

It added there were 95,668 hospital admissions for paracetamol poisoning in Australia over nine years.

The Mater handles most of the adult admissions for poisonings in the Newcastle region.

"We see about 900 poisonings per year," he said.

About 20 to 25 per cent of these were estimated to involve paracetamol.

Paracetamol pack sizes have been restricted in the UK since 1998 to eight grams for non-pharmacy sales and 16 grams for pharmacy sales (down from 50 grams).

In 2009, the availability of non-prescription paracetamol was restricted in Germany to a maximum 10 grams and it can be purchased only in pharmacies. Most western European countries have similar restrictions, the journal article said.

That aside, Professor Isbister said paracetamol posed "very little risk as long as it is used correctly".

"It is a good pain medication but must be used as per instructions on the packet or from your doctor."

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This story Should paracetamol be restricted because of poisonings? first appeared on Newcastle Herald.