The Healthy Ministry plans to limit the over-the-counter sale of paracetamol medications, known by brand names like Acamol and Dexamol in Israel and Tylenol in the United States, as part of a campaign against suicide.
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The medications are currently available for purchase in Israel in quantities of up to 48 pills per person. The Healthy Ministry is drafting a regulation that would limit the number of pills each person can buy to 16. Pharmacists would be allowed to sell up to 50 pills to each person.
Paracetamol is one of the best-selling medicines in the world and appears as a component in dozens of drugs. Overdose can cause liver damage and death. Tens of thousands of Americans are hospitalized every year for overdosing on paracetamol, and some of them die, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Health Ministry regulation is part of a program it launched in November to fight suicide. The program based on the work of a national suicide-prevention council, which the ministry created. The plan includes reducing the accessibility to suicide means, such as medicines.
Head of the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Administration Eyal Schwartzberg last month sent a letter to health maintenance organization pharmacists, advising them of the new policy. The letter draws the pharmacists’ attention to customers trying to buy Paracetamol pills unreasonably frequently or in unreasonably high quantities, which “could indicate an intention to take an overdose of the drug.”
A request to buy more than 50 pills, for example, would be a case in point, he writes. Other possible indications of an intention to abuse the drug are the patient’s appearing nervous or restless, avoiding eye contact or giving seemingly rehearsed replies, he writes.
In 2002 the Health Ministry permitted the sale of a long list of nonprescription medicines over-the-counter, not directly from a pharmacist. This was part of the reform in the drug market initiated by the Finance Ministry, despite the Health Ministry’s objection.
The Health Ministry warned at the time of the dangers in increased ingestion of medicines sold without a pharmacist’s supervision.