France is limiting paracetamol sales to two boxes per patient, including for the brands Doliprane and Efferalgan, due to an ongoing stock shortage.
Patients without a GP prescription will be limited to two boxes.
The recommendation comes from the medicines safety agency l'Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM), as a result of continued shortages of the drug.
ANSM is also calling on patients, pharmacists, and doctors to reduce their reliance on the drug unless it is the only option.
Paracetamol is most well-known as Doliprane and Efferalgan in France. It is one of the most-sold drugs without a prescription in the country.
In a statement, ANSM said: “With the approach of the winter season, and the restart of the Covid epidemic, the Collège de la médecine générale (CMG) and the pharmacist unions (FSPF and USPO) have formulated their recommendations to modify the use of paracetamol, and allow patients who have an immediate use for it to benefit first.”
It added: “When the situation allows it, take one dose three times per day every eight hours (instead of one dose four times a day every six hours)", adds the ANSM.
It also asked that patients do not "stock up on paracetamol if you do not need it immediately", and advised that the pharmacist "may dispense a quantity of paracetamol lower than that indicated on your prescription; this is a dispensation that has been adapted to [our recommendations]".
The ANSM also reminded patients that non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, should not be used as a replacement for paracetamol “in the case of pain and/or fever”...especially in children. NSAIDs are also contraindicated – not recommended – from the sixth month of pregnancy.
Some of the most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. This is in contrast to paracetamol, which is an analgesic and antipyretic (pain reliever and fever reducer).
The agency added that a “quantitative quota” for paracetamol has been in place for the supply of city pharmacies since July 2022. Supplies have been “under strain” since then.