Penn’s Zeke Emanuel Has A Simple Way to Reduce Suicides


Ezekiel Emanuel, Penn oncologist/bioethicist/administrator and a member of the ubiquitous Emanuel clan, has written a piece in today’s New York Times proposing a simple, intuitive, and not impossible to fathom bulwark against suicides: blister packs.

We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.

As a case study, Emanuel cites a study that found that in the decade after Britain changed its pill packaging, suicide-by-Tylenol overdoses declined by 43 percent. [NY Times]