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Published on 19 June 2009

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Suicides fall after drug withdrawal

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The number of suicides involving the painkilling drug co-proxamol has fallen significantly since it was withdrawn from the UK market, researchers have said.

In a study published on bmj.com, scientists at Oxford University said that co-proxamol was once the most common prescription drug used in suicides, and accounted for 766 deaths in England and Wales between 1997 and 1999.

They said the drug had a “relatively narrow” margin between the concentration at which it was therapeutic and that at which it could kill, and observed that ending prescriptions for co-proxamol was followed by a “major” reduction in suicides and accidental poisonings involving the drug.

National records were studied by the Oxford researchers to establish how successful the initiative has been in reducing the number of deaths.

They found that, following the announcement of the drug`s withdrawal in 2005, there was a 59% fall in the prescribing of co-proxamol. The changes in prescribing practices were accompanied by a 62% reduction in suicides involving co-proxamol, or 295 fewer deaths.

However, despite an increase in the prescribing of other painkillers, there was no increase in deaths involving these other drugs, allaying fears that people would substitute other products for co-proxamol in suicide attempts, the report said.

Copyright Press Association 2009

bmj.com



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