A new study from the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University says that the withdrawal of a common painkiller has contributed to a dramatic reduction in suicides.
It added that the phasing out of co-proxamol was responsible for at least 350 fewer suicides in the country. The drug was withdrawn by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in 2005 and its license was removed in 2007.
The present study found that co-proxamol was responsible for a fifth of all drug-related suicides before 2007. However this rate had fallen by 62% since the drug was withdrawn. Overall 295 fewer suicides and 349 fewer deaths were reported from accidental overdose, the study said.
"This marked reduction in suicides and accidental poisonings involving co-proxamol during this period, with no evidence of an increase in deaths involving other analgesics, suggests the initiative has been effective," said study leader Professor Keith Hawton.
A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) agreed with the findings, "Co-proxamol is extremely dangerous in overdose - only a small overdose can be fatal, and death can occur very rapidly - before medical attention can be sought," he added.
The details of the study appear in the British Medical Journal.