Supply of medicine containing paracetamol and COVID-19 oral drugs

     A Government spokesman today (January 13) said that the supply of medicine containing paracetamol in Hong Kong remains stable. The public need not stockpile the relevant medicine. In addition, it is an offence to sell or resell COVID-19 oral drugs, including supply without payment.

     The Government has all along been monitoring the local supply of medicine containing paracetamol and has been closely communicating with the suppliers, local manufacturers and community pharmacy associations. In view of the surge in demand for the relevant medicine in late December 2022, the Department of Health (DH) has met with relevant pharmaceutical and pharmacy associations in early January this year to discuss measures to maintain the steady supply of medicines in the retail sector. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors have been monitoring the stock situation and will continue to step up the manufacturing or importation of medicine containing paracetamol to meet the increased demand. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy (HKGCP) will also urge its members to only supply a reasonable quantity of paracetamol-containing medicine to customers in accordance with their medical need.

     Paracetamol is used for symptomatic relief of pain and fever. Members of the public should consult healthcare professionals before taking any medications. If symptoms persist after taking paracetamol for a few days, medical advice should be sought as soon as possible. As an overdose of paracetamol may cause serious liver injury, a normal adult should not consume more than 4 000 milligrams of paracetamol within 24 hours (for a tablet containing 500mg paracetamol, the maximum daily intake for a normal adult is eight tablets), while children and people with certain medical conditions should also reduce the dosage.

     Based on the above usage of paracetamol, unless otherwise advised by a doctor, the supply of paracetamol-containing products at the retail level to customers for symptomatic relief of pain and fever not exceeding 60 tablets (usually for people aged 12 or above) or 300 millilitres of liquid preparations (usually for children aged 12 or below) for each user is considered reasonable. The DH understands that medicine retailers (including members of the HKGCP and the major chain-stores) would take into consideration this reasonable quantity when supplying the medicine.

     The Government has also stepped up public education on the use of paracetamol. Currently, there are a total of 756 pharmaceutical products containing paracetamol registered in Hong Kong. Among them, 684 products are over-the-counter medicines which could be purchased without a doctor's prescription. To assist members of the public to differentiate these registered products containing paracetamol, the DH has compiled a list of these products and posted it on the website of the Drug Office:

     The Government spokesman stressed that the public healthcare system has sufficient stock of medicine containing paracetamol, and urged members of the public again to avoid stockpiling any medicines including those containing paracetamol. There is also no need to panic buy certain brands of medicine, and members of the public should seek advice from healthcare professionals when necessary.

     In addition, the Government spokesman reminds members of the public that the two types of registered COVID-19 oral drugs (namely Paxlovid and Molnupiravir) could only be supplied to healthcare institutions and doctors in public and private sectors. Patients could only be prescribed the relevant drugs by registered medical practitioners when needed, and drug retail outlets cannot procure the relevant oral drugs from suppliers nor sell them to the public. Medical practitioners will only prescribe the medicine to confirmed COVID-19 patients when indicated. In general, a COVID-19 patient would only be prescribed with one course of treatment of COVID-19 oral drug (for one course of treatment, Paxlovid contains 30 tablets while Molnupiravir contains 40 capsules). Members of the public should take the COVID-19 oral drugs according to the doctor's instructions and complete the entire course of treatment if they are prescribed with relevant medications after consultation. It is an offence to illegally possess, sell or resell (including supply without payment) COVID-19 oral drugs. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

Ends/Friday, January 13, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:27