Kuala Lumpur: The alleged shortage of paracetamol drugs on the market has raised fears that the public may resort to self-medication to alleviate the side effects of vaccinations and booster doses as well as the symptoms of Covid-19 infections. Buying paracetamol without consulting a doctor or pharmacist is a worrying trend because an overdose of the drug can expose users to poisoning. Doctors and pharmacists interviewed by Bernama said the trend seemed to be getting “out of control” at the moment, likely due to the spike in new Covid-19 cases, the bulk of which include mild infections that cause symptoms such as fever. and aches that can be relieved by taking paracetamol.
Several pharmacists also said many people stock up on paracetamol in preparation for their Covid-19 booster shot which can cause side effects such as fever, headaches and joint pain. Paracetamol is commonly used to relieve aches and pain and reduce fever. Panadol, which contains paracetamol, is one of the most popular painkiller brands available in Malaysia. Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said patients should have some knowledge of any medication, even if it is just paracetamol, that they are taking. “There is nothing wrong with buying drugs for self-medication, but you have to have knowledge about it. In the case of paracetamol, for example, one must know the appropriate dose and frequency of administration, as well as the strength of the drug, its side effects, etc. “But how many people know these things? Before you buy, first read the directions printed on the medicine pack… that’s why we encourage the public to buy (their medicines) from pharmacies because the pharmacists (on duty there) can assess their symptoms and advise them on dosage accordingly,” he told Bernama. Amrahi said whether to take paracetamol before or after vaccination would depend on an individual’s health status, while the dosage would depend on weight, age and other medications they are taking as well as his general state of health. Moreover, he added, there are different types of paracetamol drugs on the market that perform different functions, some of which are not suitable for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure.
He stated that although paracetamol is, in general, safe for consumption, however, it cannot be taken indiscriminately because if taken in excess or without consulting a specialist, it can lead to unwanted side effects, including liver damage. Amrahi also expressed concern that consumers are turning to online vendors to buy their favorite brand of paracetamol when the usual stores and pharmacies where they buy it run out of stock. “We are concerned that some irresponsible people are taking advantage of the situation and selling fake paracetamol tablets to consumers online, which may put their health at risk. It is better to buy paracetamol from pharmacies because they have the necessary tools to test whether the paracetamol drug is genuine or not,” he added. Explaining why stocks of paracetamol are currently hard to come by, Amrahi said it stems from the attitude of consumers who seem to prefer taking a certain brand of paracetamol medicine to lessen the side effects of their Covid-19 vaccination or their booster injection. “In fact, various other brands of paracetamol drugs are also available in the market…they are also safe and able to relieve the side effects of vaccination. All you have to do is share your symptoms with the pharmacist who will then recommend the right medication for you,” he said. Public health expert and epidemiologist from Universiti Malaya, Professor Noran Naqiah Hairi, said there are alternative drugs, other than paracetamol, to treat symptoms such as fever and body aches. “People receiving their vaccine or booster can seek advice from health staff stationed at the vaccination center on appropriate medications to take, apart from paracetamol,” she said. Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Malaysia, which manufactures Panadol, said in a statement to Bernama that there has been an increase in demand for Panadol since the implementation of the national Covid-19 vaccination program on February 24 last year. GSK said the company is currently ramping up production of Panadol to meet market demand. * Follow us on Instagram and join our Telegram and/or WhatsApp channels for the latest news you don’t want to miss.
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