There has been a major reduction in deaths involving a pain-relief drug since it was withdrawn in the UK in 2005, an Oxford University-led study has found.

The drug, Co-proxamol, was linked to a fifth of drug-poisoning suicides in England and Wales between 1997 and 1999.

Following concerns regarding its widespread use in suicidal poisonings, it was withdrawn from use in the UK between 2005 and 2007.

A previous study showed a reduction in the number of suicides related to co-proxamol suicides during this three year withdrawal phase and no evidence of an increase in deaths from other prescription pain killers.

The study showed that, following the drug’s withdrawal, there were 20 deaths related to co-proxamol per year, including suicides and accidental poisonings. It was more than 250 per year during the 1990s.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research with support from the Oxford NHS Foundation Trust.