The effect of recalling paracetamol on hospital admissions for poisoning in Western Australia
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Objectives: To assess the effect of two recalls of paracetamol products on rates of intentional and unintentional overdoses of paracetamol in all age groups, as well as any effect on poisoning by other agents. Design: A before-and-after epidemiological study using data from the Western Australian Health Services Research Linked Database, which records all admissions to public and private hospitals throughout the State. Main outcome measures: Hospital admissions in Western Australia for poisonings with all agents, including paracetamol and other over-the-counter analgesics. Results: There were 11 752 admissions for poisoning from 1996 to 2001. Paracetamol was the primary poisoning agent in 2266 (19.3%) admissions, aspirin in 120 (1%) and ibuprofen in 277 (2%). There was a significant decrease in the admission rate for paracetamol poisoning when sales were restricted in 2000 (rate ratio, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.68-0.99) compared with the same period in other years. There was no increase in poisoning with other agents at this time. However, admissions for paracetamol overdose also showed a large random variation that tended to obscure any effect. Conclusions: Our study highlights the need to control for random as well as seasonal fluctuations in admission rates, and for restrictions on paracetamol sales to last for several months across all retail outlets. Limiting access to paracetamol may reduce paracetamol poisonings without a coincident increase in the use of other agents.
Medical Journal of Australia
Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified