Paracetamol is potentially dangerous and its sale should be restricted, says a Wellington emergency doctor.
Doctor Paul Quigley and public health advisor Nadia Freeman made the calls in the latest issue of the New Zealand Medical Journal, released earlier this week.
Those under 18 should be banned from buying it, and it should come in smaller packets, he said.
Paracetamol is the most commonly misused or overdosed medicine treated for in New Zealand hospitals.
Over a six-year period, it was by far the most common drug found in overdose treatment at Wellington hospital, accounting for almost 25 percent of cases.
In the six years to the end of 2012, there were 747 incidents, more than twice the amount of the next most common drug.
Most packets of paracetamol contained enough pills to be dangerous, the authors said, and New Zealand should consider restricting the amount that can be bought in one sale.
Dr Quigley said paracetamol was the most toxic medicine available over the counter and should come in smaller packets.
That way it would be harder for those who make a spontaneous decision to overdose to have access to a toxic amount, he said.
An overdose of paracetamol causes a very painful, inflamed liver and severe vomiting.
He did not have concerns about the general use of paracetamol when it is used properly, he said, but wanted to protect those who may try to misuse it at a vulnerable time in their lives.
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