Adjournment Matters. - Matter of Concern to Member.

I call on the Minister for Health to examine, as a matter of urgency, the need to restrict the sale of paracetamol products to pharmacies and to further restrict such sales to a particular quantity, such as 20 tablets. I suggest that a person should sign a form to indicate receipt of this product and whether an additional quantity was dispensed. Pharmacies should ask patients why the product is required.

I am extremely concerned about an epidemic of potentially lethal overdoses of paracetamol among young people, particularly women. This has been worrying doctors and psychiatrists and has cost the State a fortune. However, the public seems blissfully unaware that a drug contained in the bathroom cabinets of most homes can have such lethal effects. Paracetamol products should not be freely available across the counter in supermarkets, shops and petrol stations. One in five cases of self-poisoning in Ireland is caused by paracetamol products. Paracetamol was the second most frequent cause of poisoning in 1993 when 831 instances were recorded.

Medical sources estimate that between 500 and 600 people in the Republic suffer liver damage each year caused by paracetamol overdoses. Approximately 50 per cent of the emergency liver transplants carried out in this country resulted from such poisoning. These products should not be freely available without the provision of advice about their dangers.

I listened carefully to the points raised by Senator Neville and I undertake to bring them to the attention of the Minister. I will return with a speedy response.

The Seanad adjourned at 10.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 20 March 1997.