The statement from the body representing the consumer healthcare industry follows a BBC Radio 5 Live report of a number of accidental deaths said to be the result of smoking near to clothing or bed sheets that had a large build-up of paraffin-based emollient soaked into them.
As many as 37 such deaths have been identified in England since 2010, the BBC programme suggested.
John Smith, PAGB chief executive, commented: “We are deeply saddened to hear about these particular cases and offer our condolences to the families concerned.
"Manufacturers of emollients are not at present required by regulation or statute to include fire safety warnings on packaging. Safety is nonetheless of paramount importance to the OTC medicines industry. In the light of this investigation, PAGB is looking to explore this issue further with the member companies and relevant bodies to see if in future, safety warnings should be added to on-pack labelling for all paraffin based emollients as standard practice across the industry, a step which some manufacturers have already taken.”
PAGB said that with sufficient washing of clothes and bedsheets, the amount of emollient usually used by people at home is considered safe when used in accordance with on-pack instructions and the patient information leaflet. But larger volumes of emollient, usually used in other care situations, with patients who smoke, should be managed with care.
“The current guidance on the use of emollients issued by the MHRA, the British National Formulary and the former National Patient Safety Agency is based on specific fire risk tests conducted by the Health & Safety Executive. The guidance seeks to ensure healthcare workers exercise caution in the specific situation where they are applying significant volumes of emollients to patients that are permitted to smoke or who may be near to a naked flame. Other risks are seen to be far higher, such as ensuring bedding and clothing is washed regularly to remove any build-up of residue.
“Significant volumes here are amounts of 100g or more, an amount which implies treatment in professional care settings and not in the home by people treating common levels of eczema and other dry skin conditions. We therefore want to reassure people that the normal use of emollients in the home is considered appropriately safe provided the products are used in accordance with the on-pack instructions and accompanying patient information leaflet,” said Mr Smith.