Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Stern rebuke for shops' painkiller deals

Bargain shops in Northern Ireland have been reprimanded for selling packets of 48 painkillers for just £1, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Poundland stores here are offloading three 16-pill packets of 500mg paracetamol for that amount and, for the same price shoppers can also buy three packs of 200mg Ibuprufen.

People have died in the past from taking the equivalent of half a packet of paracetamol, according to medical experts.

And critics of the bargain pills, who say that selling drugs is "not like selling baked beans," have strongly discouraged promoting multi-buy offers.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland has said it is unethical for shops to retail the drugs in such quantities - and at such knockdown prices.

Poundland has, however, denied any wrongdoing and a spokeswoman said the company is operating within legal guidelines.

Ulster pharmacist Raymond Anderson, meanwhile, has called for an end to the bulk sales.

He added that less than 15 paracetamol can kill, and stressed that the drug leads to overdoses every year.

At present, voluntary guidelines state that only two packets of 16 pills should be sold at any one time.

Mr Anderson, a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, said there were ethical and cost issues surrounding the sale of paracetamol.

"Paracetamol is a very effective medicine if the recommended dosage is respected," he said.

"But there is an ethical issue surrounding its sale in this way because people in Northern Ireland have died from paracetamol overdoses.

"Only a small number can lead to an inadvertent overdose and taking less than 15 tablets can be dangerous."

Mr Anderson, who has two shops in Co Armagh, said medicine should only be purchased from a registered practitioner.

"The practice of selling medicine in non-pharmaceutical outlets should be stopped," he added.

"From a consumer perspective we understand that people want to limit their expenditure on medicines, but they can ask a pharmacist to recommend a cheaper alternative."

Poundland customers can only purchase three packets in any one transaction - although there is nothing to stop someone from returning to the shop on the same day.

When outlets such as Boots are charging up to £4.07 for 12 Nurofen 200mg liquid capsules, it's not hard to see why people prefer bargain shops.

Moreover, Co Antrim doctor Brian Dunn has argued making medication accessible and affordable is a good thing for consumers.

"I think it's not unreasonable to sell three packets of paracetamol at a time, as it is a relatively safe drug," said Dr Dunn.

"If someone is going to attempt to take their own life using tablets, it's easy enough to store them up and take them so that's not an issue.

"It's also not a bad thing that these medicines are being sold at a price most people can afford because charging a lot for a few pills is a lucrative money-making scheme for a lot of pharmacies."

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