Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, November 19, 1998 Published at 18:31 GMT


Painkiller restrictions may be relaxed

Restrictions may be relaxed

Curbs on the number of painkillers that people are allowed to buy at one time could be relaxed for low-strength pills, a government minister has indicated.

The regulations, designed to reduce the risk of suicide attempts, restrict the sale of analgesics such as aspirin and paracetamol products to packs of 16 tablets or capsules for general sale.

Where the sale or supply is under supervision of a pharmacist, the limit is 32. Patients with long-term or recurrent conditions are allowed up to 100.

But the restrictions, implemented in August, have prompted complaints of higher prices and inconvenience.

Health Minister Baroness Hayman told the House of Lords: "The issue about the (low-strength) 75mg aspirin is one that I do take seriously because obviously we are addressing the higher strength tablets.

"I will ask the Medicines Control Agency to look at that specific area to see whether there is any change that would be appropriate."

Price hikes

[ image: Baroness Hayman: considering a change]
Baroness Hayman: considering a change
Liberal Democrat Lord Jacobs said at least a million people took a quarter-strength 75mg aspirin a day to help prevent heart disease and strokes.

The new rules meant people now had to go to the chemist once a month.

"They are obliged to pay 50% more than they were paying before."

Lady Hayman said she recognised "the difficulties that have been caused for some patients about the low-dose aspirins being limited in terms of numbers".

Former British Medical Association president crossbencher Lord Walton of Detchant said: "I take an aspirin each morning for the reasons Lord Jacobs mentioned."

Shop around

Lady Hayman urged people to shop around.

"Not everybody has increased the price per tablet in the same way," she said.

Roger Odd, a spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, welcomed the review of the restrictions.

He said: "We have been getting queries from a number of people who need these medicines as a means of preventing heart disease and strokes.

"We are talking about a very small dose, and to restrict these medicines to 32 tablets at a time is complete nonsense."

Approximately 200 accidental deaths and suicides result from the misuse of painkillers each year.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

16 Sep 98 | Health
Suicide fears limit paracetamol sales

03 Aug 98 | Health
Stroke victims not told how to reduce risk

Internet Links


Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99