From my query to government about the matter.
Thank you for your correspondence of 22 November 2022 to the Minister for Health and
Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP regarding proposed plans to limit paracetamol. The
Minister has asked me to reply.
I acknowledge your concerns regarding access to paracetamol.
From 14 September to 14 October 2022, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), part
of the Department of Health and Aged Care, consulted publicly on a range of options for
new or tightened purchasing and access controls for paracetamol. At this stage, however,
no decision has been made to change access to paracetamol. It is important that our
community retains access to medication for the relief of acute and chronic pain, and none of
the options, if implemented, would result in the removal of supermarket or pharmacy
access to paracetamol.
The consultation was undertaken in response to the publication of an independent expert
report into the risks of self-poisoning with paracetamol that was commissioned by the TGA
following reports of a significant number of deaths from intentional paracetamol misuse.
The report is available at www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/publications/independent-
expert-panel-report. The report identified an increasing trend in self-poisonings, particularly
among adolescent and young adult females, and included seven (7) recommendations to
reduce the risks associated with this medicine.
The Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS), an independent committee of
medical specialists and public health advocates, met on 16 November 2022 to discuss the
findings of the independent expert report and the submissions received during the first
round of public consultation. The ACMS considered all factors associated with the possible
changes, including weighing the benefits of paracetamol use to relieve pain against the risks
to public health associated with its deliberate misuse.
The decision maker on any changes is a senior medical officer at the TGA acting as a
delegate of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care, not the Minister for
Health and Aged Care or the Australian Government. The delegate will consider the advice
of the ACMS, the submissions received during the public consultation, and the independent
expert report before making an interim decision on any changes to the access of
paracetamol. The interim decision is anticipated to be published in February 2023 and will
be available at www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/scheduling-decisions-interim.
Publication of the interim decision will be immediately followed by another round of
consultation to allow members of the public to provide feedback in relation to the interim
decision before a final decision is made. A final decision is anticipated to be made in April
Changes, if any, would likely not be implemented until late 2023 or early 2024.
I was not able to identify an interim determination. My personal view is that humans are very clever and if one problem is removed they will replace it with one equal or more effective or sinister. Everyone else pays either through higher prices, reduced and restricted availability, or removal from the market.
A similar issue is pseudoephedrine, about the only truly effective decongestant available. Those with chronic problems have been disadvantaged and drug manufacturers seem to have been only minimally impacted.
If anyone wants to do self harm they are going to do it with paracetamol, a gun, jumping off a building, ‘death by cop’ or whatever. Trying to protect every one from everything they might get into has its own societal consequences. Where the balance is is for each individual. My position might be evident.