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Drug packaging may reduce number of suicides

Published: Tuesday, June 4 2013 12:25 p.m. MDT

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Want a simple way to reduce the number of suicides and accidental poisonings? “Make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed,” according to Ezekiel J. Emanuel in an article for the New York Times.

Sound unbelievable? Consider that in 1998 in Britain the packaging for paracetamol, the active ingredient in Tylenol, changed and blister packs were required for packages of 16 and 32 pills. “A study by Oxford University researchers showed that over the subsequent 11 or so years, suicide deaths from Tylenol overdoses declined by 43 percent, and a similar decline was found in accidental deaths from medication poisonings,” according to Emanuel

Similarly, packaging changes can reduce the number of poisonings of children. “After the Food and Drug Administration required blister packaging for iron pills, which cause poisoning death in young children, the number of iron-ingestion calls to poison control centers in the country dropped by about 33 percent and the number of deaths went almost to zero,” according to Emanuel.

Although the changes in packaging may be more expensive, there could be cost savings in other areas, like emergency room visits.

Read more about reducing suicides on New York Times.

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