PARIS (Reuters) – France limited sales of paracetamol-based drugs on Tuesday as people who fear coronavirus infection raided pharmacies to stockpile the drug.

France’s ANSM medicine agency said that while paracetamol-based medicine is useful to alleviate aches and fevers in case of coronavirus infection, people should not unnecessarily buy large stocks of the drug.

ANSM said in a statement that in order to guarantee availability of the medicine, pharmacists can sell maximum one box of paracetamol (500 milligram or one gram) to people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus infection and maximum two boxes to patients who do have symptoms.

It also suspended sales on the internet of medicines based on paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin.

ANSM said that in case of infection, paracetamol is better than anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and these can mask an infection and possibly worsen a patient’s condition.

Used well, paracetamol is a safe and efficient drug, the agency said, but it warned that an overdose of paracetamol can cause serious liver damage.

Paracetamol is one of the world’s most common painkillers and is sold under different brand names.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Grant McCool)