RPS calls for legislative ban on multi-buy deals of paracetamol


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is urging the Government to pass legislation that prohibits retailers from offering multi-buy deals on paracetamol. Multi-buy deals are in direct violation of voluntary sales guidelines that exist to help prevent overdose.

Multi-buy offers such as ‘buy one get one free’ can encourage people to buy more packs than they actually need. This can lead to excess packs being stored at home, which poses a risk of accidental or impulsive overdose.

Voluntary guidance on sales of pain relief medicines set out by the MHRA clearly requests:

  • Retailers ‘don’t sell more than two packs of medicines for pain relief in any one transaction’
  • Retailers ‘don’t use offers that encourage the sale of more than one pack’

RPS is concerned this self-regulation is not sufficient to safeguard public health and that robust regulatory action is needed. Whilst many retailers stick to the guidance, others deliberately ignore it.

For example, RPS has recently contacted discount retailer Poundland to request it ends its current ‘3-for-£1’ offer on paracetamol and ibuprofen. When contacted by RPS about this practice in the past, Poundland has refused to alter its approach as although it is outside the voluntary guidance, it is within the law.

In its recently published suicide prevention strategy for England the Government recommended that the MHRA monitors compliance with the voluntary guidance to see if regulatory change is required.

RPS has also sent the letter to Maria Caulfield MP, Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health and the MHRA to request that action is taken as soon as possible to end multi-buy deals on medicines for pain relief.

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.

“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."

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