NEWS: Suicide worry hits drugs sector

Concern over suicides from paracetemol overdoses has dealt a surprise blow to supermarkets’ efforts to steal share in the pharmaceuticals market.

Concern over suicides from paracetemol overdoses has dealt a surprise

blow to supermarkets’ efforts to steal share in the pharmaceuticals


The Medicines Control Agency, which polices the sector, wants retailers

to be restricted to selling packs of 12 tablets and pharmacies to packs

of 30, and wants them to demand a doctor’s prescriptions for higher


Two hundred and twenty people died in the UK last year from paracetemol


The MCA is to ask the industry to enforce the proposed new rules on a

voluntary basis, although the government could step in if there is


Such a move would be a major setback for supermarkets. Own-label

painkillers have battered their branded counterparts over the past year,

showing that publicity by the likes of Asda over cheaper retail versions

of key drugs is hitting home.

Own-label accounted for 19% of the pounds 216m market in the year to

October 6 - up from 17.1% over the same period the year before. The only

brand to show growth was Crookes Healthcare’s Nurofen, which expanded

distribution to supermarkets and CTNs.

Nurofen (which is based on ibuprofen, not paracetamol) has now edged

close to brand leader Whitehall Laboratories’ Anadin. The latter has

seen its share fall from 15.7% to 15.2%.

Whitehall’s marketing efforts are concentrated on the pounds 6m launch

of its top US seller Advil, set to grab share from all the top three


Asda has been active over the past year, promoting its own-label drugs

in an effort to encourage the abolition of the pharmaceutical industry’s

price-fixing agreement, Resale Price Maintenance.

See Analysis, page 16.


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