TGA to introduce paracetamol pack size limits

The maximum pack size for paracetamol tablets will be capped at 16 per pack, down from 20, after an interim decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

In a bid to reduce the number of deliberate overdoses involving paracetamol, the TGA has indicated that it will overhaul the Poisons Standard to introduce stricter controls on the over-the-counter painkiller.

The changes to the standard include a reduction in the maximum paracetamol pack size from 20 to 16 for packs being offered for ‘general sale’ (from supermarkets or convenience stores) and a reduction in pack size from 100 to 32 for paracetamol sold in pharmacies.

In addition, all paracetamol must be sold in blister packs, even in larger pack sizes.

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The TGA says the decision follows an independent expert report examining the incidence of serious injury and death from intentional paracetamol overdose.

The report found that each year in Australia about 225 people are admitted to hospital and 50 die from paracetamol overdose, with rates of intentional overdose highest among adolescents and young adults.

Normally, paracetamol is not toxic to adults, but taken in large enough quantities it can overwhelm the body’s ability to process it effectively. This leads to paracetamol binding to liver cells and eventually overwhelming the liver.

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In fact, paracetamol is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the Western world.

“It [the decision] intends to strike a balance between minimising the incidence and harm from intentional self-poisoning and access to paracetamol for the treatment of acute and chronic pain,” the TGA says.

The decision took into account responses to public consultation conducted between September and October last year, and also advice from the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling.

The TGA stressed that this was an interim decision, and that further public consultation would take place until 3 March, with a final decision to be made after that date.

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The TGA is asking the public not to stockpile paracetamol in advance of the decision and is encouraging retailers to limit paracetamol sales.

“To further minimise the harm from paracetamol overdose, the TGA is encouraging retailers such as supermarkets to restrict sales to a single pack at a time,” the TGA says.

“The TGA is also encouraging consumers to not stockpile paracetamol in the home and to appropriately store paracetamol and other medicines.”

Do you think this is a good decision? Or is it just punishing people who don’t abuse paracetamol? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. A good portion of the price of paracetamol, like most things sold, is in the packaging. Now the various manufacturers will have to retool for this new interim blister pack, with no certainty of what future blister pack sizes might be. Fewer pills in a pack, but doubtless no price change. All this will do is hit the hip pocket pf those who need pain medication. Talk to any GP and they will tell you what a nonsense the TGAs earlier decision on low dosage Paracetamol with Codeine has been for them, with the item now needing scripts. Some GPs are simply refusing to write scripts for any pain medication with codeine as a result. It’s not like they are already underworked.

  2. As I have a chronic nerve condition, it is necessary for me to take Panadol Osteo 4 per day. Occasionally I take 2 more Paracetamol during the day day. It is recommended not more that 6 per day should not harm the liver.
    Therefore I use quite a lot of these.
    As they are now to be restricted, I urgently suggest that in circumstances such as mine, a Doctors’ prescription should be available for a larger supply of tablets such as I need.

    • A few years ago you could get a prescription for Panadol Osteo from the doctor and it was a bit cheaper doing it that way. I suffer from Osteo Arthritis ( back, feet, hands legs) and need to take 6 Panadol Osteo tablets a day (six hours apart). For people that really need it, they should be able to get prescriptions from their doctor. I have had trouble taking Ibruprofen in the past.

    • I don’t think a prescription is or should be necessary – the cost of doing so would outweigh the benefit (assuming you can even get a GP appointment to get the prescription in the first place). These higher-strength drugs are only available in a chemist anyway, so making it necessary to record the dispensing in real time would allow access to those who genuinely need them and also restrict the multiple purchasing from multiple chemists in a single day/week. This would not disadvantage those that need them and would restrict access for those intending to self-harm.

  3. restricting paracetamol for vague reasone when paracetamol and ibruprofen combination is far more dangerous and not restricted. The ibruprofen gives well known stomach issues whereas you have to eat a bucket load of paracetamol to do yourself harm. Personally with a bad back, bad knee and bad hip I have never found paracetamol by itself to be of any use whereas paracetamol/ibruprofen does work.

    • Well, it’s that “bucket load” of paracetamol that is being addressed by this ridiculous proposal for change. The change will not stop a single person from buying the reduced amounts at several outlets if they are determined to self-harm. The only way would be to have to register the purchase at source in real-time. This would prevent multiple single purchases on the same day. Then make it impossible to buy more for 48 hours. That would restrict access even more given a typical dose is 2 tabs x 4 times a day so a packet of 16 tablets should last 2 days. For people with medical conditions requiring larger quantities, making these chemist-only products, also registered in real time to prevent multiple purchases in one day would also prevent overuse and self-harm but would not disadvantage those who genuinely need them.

  4. This report says there is a consultation – Input into this consultation before March 3rd
    100’s or 1000’s of people who have arthritis and other chronic conditions depend on regular daily doses of Panadol to survive by responsibly taking recommended doses. Restrictions will probably put a lot more pressure on the health system for these people looking for other ways to control chronic pain.
    Blister packaging only will cause a lot of people who have arthritis of the hands and fingers problems – they will require assistance to remove tablets from the blister packs.
    If people can get larger supplies if managed by a pharmacist but in smaller packs – this will create more waste both of boxes and blister packs both of which are difficult to recycle.

  5. Neither my wife nor I can take NSAIDS. Nor can my wife take opioids. Result is that we can only rely on paracetamol for pain relief. The cheapest way to buy these is in large packs from our pharmacist. Reducing the maximum packet size will simply reduce our budget for other things.

  6. This is ageism pure and simple. So 50 people almost all young die from paracetamol overdoses each year and that’s very sad but so we all have to suffer, mainly older people because of this abuse. Yet last year over 3,800 people almost all seniors died from Covid 19 yet the government is dragging the chains on a further booster for seniors because younger people haven’t bothered to get their jabs.

  7. In preliminary data for road fatalities for the 12 months to January 2023, there were 288 deaths. Of these, 75 were under 25. And that is just NSW. 1160 died across Australia. There were a further 10227 serious injuries on NSW roads 2825 of these under the age of 25 (data for 2021 the last year available). So based on the reasoning of the TGA, should we be preventing those under 25 (i.e. adolescents and young adults) from driving, riding or walking public roads without a responsible adult? After all, 23 times the number die on the roads nationally as they do intentionally taking paracetamol. More than 45 times the number are seriously injured. And that is just in NSW, the difference would be even greater across all states and territories. Preventing people obtaining the pain-killers they genuinely need to prevent a few disturbed kids misusing them is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There are other ways to stop sales to adolescents and young adults. Incidentally, in 2020 there were 1467 illicit drug deaths across Australia and that was low due to COVID restrictions!

  8. With a partner who takes panadol osteo at the recommended dosage as prescribed by a doctor this change will require multiple purchases each month. Also, blister packs for a person with even moderate arthritis will present issues with accessing the tablets. There is no mention of restricting the number of times that a pharmacist can sell the now reduced pack size but if such a restriction is instituted how will the patient be able to access the minimum quantity that is needed to mange their condition. While it is concerning that more than 500 people per year over dose and that about 50 overdose to death this seems like an exercise in over control. To maybe protect 50 people thousands will be disadvantaged. Surely the 50 will just stockpile the smaller packs until they have a sufficient quantity to pursue their chosen course. Education and medical intervention are regularly mentioned as methodology for harm minimization but there is no mention of adopting these strategies.

  9. Oh goodie! retailers delight. they’ll be able to double or quadruple the unit price now. What next? Consuming food in excess causes obesety and myriad ither problems. Will food soon be rationed in smaller and smaller quantities until the Granny State has us under control again!

  10. My wife suffers from Multiple Myeloma and has several spinal fractures which are a result of the bone being attacked by the cancer. She purchases the 100 pack of Panamax as they are the only one she can rely on. They are only $3 a pack. So now she will need to continually buy 30 packs as i would assume the same price if not more. Is this just a money grab by big pharma now they are feeling the pinch with all the panedine brands being restricted. A lot of people who rely on the larger packs for daily control of severe pain will be disadvantaged for a few who could be restricted to smaller pack sales based on age if the under 25’s are the main age group affected. Do not penalise the aged who take this medication sensibly and who require it.

  11. I am one of many long-time users of paracetamol, and as such, I have an acute understanding of the dangers of this medication and the necessary precautions one must take in relation to its administration.

    I use this medication daily to enhance the effect of Tramadol Hydrochloride to relieve chronic pain. So now I’m going to be hit with a higher cost for a reduced quantity of paracetamol that I along with millions of other responsible users were using responsibly and having no problems with. All because a few idiotic teeny-boppers can’t behave themselves. – GREAT.

  12. The maximum recommended dosage of paracetamol per day (24 hours) is 8 x 500mg tablets/capsules. Even half that amount taken over extended periods will affect the liver adversely. So, just HOW MUCH are these idiot abusers taking? One’s mind boggles!

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