Self-regulation is not sufficient to safeguard public health, robust regulatory action is needed, says RPS
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said that multi-buy deals on paracetamol violate the existing voluntary sales guidelines.
The professional body is urging the government to pass legislation that prohibits retailers from making such offers on medicines for pain relief.
They have also sent letters to MP Maria Caulfield who is the Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is requesting to take action on the legislation at the earliest.
The concern raised is that multi-buy offers such as ‘buy one get one free’ can encourage people to buy and store excess packs, which may lead to accidental or impulsive overdose.
RPS president, Professor Claire Anderson, said: “The sale of medicines carries an extra level of responsibility for retailers as their misuse can pose significant risks to health.”
In its blue guide, the MHRA has outlined the voluntary best practice guidance on the sale of analgesics such as paracetamol.
The regulator authority has requested retailers not to “sell more than two packs of medicines for pain relief in any one transaction” or “use offers that encourage the sale of more than one pack.”
However, RPS opined that “this self-regulation is not sufficient to safeguard public health and that robust regulatory action is needed.”
Anderson added: “Ensuring public safety cannot solely rely on voluntary codes of conduct, especially when these codes are openly disregarded by some retailers.
“Through stricter regulation lives can be saved and individuals can be protected from the consequences of paracetamol overdose.
“It’s high time legislation was changed to protect public health and prioritise patient safety over profit,” she said.
RPS recently contacted Poundland and requested it to end its current “3-for-£1” offer on paracetamol and ibuprofen.
However, in the past, the discount retailer had declined the RPS’ request to alter its approach as “it is outside the voluntary guidance, it is within the law.”
As per MHRA’s blue guide, it is illegal “to sell more than 100 tablets or capsules of either paracetamol or aspirin in any one retail transaction.”
The UK government on September 11, 2023, published a suicide prevention strategy for England and recommended the MHRA to monitor compliance with guidance on the sales of painkillers.
Working along with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the MHRA was required to review whether regulatory change was required on the quantities of sales of the tablets.