Photo: Jessica Gow / Scanpix.

Calls to limit paracetamol sales

3:58 min

The Swedish government should put limits on how much paracetamol Swedes can buy over-the-counter at any one time, says the head of Sweden's Association of Pharmacists, Thony Björk. He says he is worried that Swedes don't have enough respect for the drug, and liver damage and even deaths could be the result of overuse of the popular painkiller. Swedes have been able to buy non-prescription drugs from places like supermarkets, shops and garages since 2009, and since then, sales of painkillers such as paracetamol have increased.

For a long time the only place you could buy any drugs, even non prescription ones, was in the state-owned pharmacy monopoly, often with limited opening times, and not always close to home, but following the deregulation of the industry just over a year ago, painkillers such as paracetamol are now available over the counter, or OTC, at many supermarkets and shops around the country. Great if you've got a splitting headache, but you've run out of pills and it's a Saturday evening.

But the deregulation isn't without its risks, experts say, they fear that some people are misusing paracetamol painkillers, for example, possible causing major liver damage. Thony Björk says the government needs to consider limiting the amount of pills a customer can buy at any one time.

"We must be aware of the potential risk connected to the use of paracetamol", he told Radio Sweden, "Especially among young women, using it for suicide, actually."

Björk says limiting the amount of pills a customer may buy at any one time might not reduce suicides, but it would mean that Swedes would treat the drugs with a bit more respect.

"There is a signal then that 'Oh, this might be a dangerous medicine'", Björk says, "it's not like candy, it really is a dangerous medicine, as the amount that you can buy at one time is limited".

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