There I was paging through my latest batch of Food and Drug Administration news releases when all of a sudden one of them caught my eye. Brace yourself…the FDA finally got something right. (I know, I was shocked too!)
I must warn you, however, to not get too excited, because it’s not a big victory, but, hey, at least it’s a step in the right direction.
The FDA has at last “admitted” that acetaminophen products carry a serious risk for severe liver injury, and it has asked drug manufacturers of prescription-strength products to limit the amount of the drug to no more than 325 milligrams (mg) per tablet or capsule. In addition, they have to label their products with a black box liver toxicity warning.
According to the FDA’s own numbers, close to half of all acetaminophen-related cases of liver failure in the United States are due to prescriptions containing the drug.
But, of course, the elephant in the room is that this fact means that more than half of the acetaminophen-related cases of liver failure are NOT from prescription-strength acetaminophen products. Instead, they are cases of ordinary folks like you or me accidentally taking too much of this supposedly mild drug in over-the-counter products.
Now, usually when I say this I hear back from someone that if I look at any acetaminophen bottle I’ll see a warning about taking too much. And it’s true; there is indeed such a warning.
But the problem is that the combination of acetaminophen’s mild-mannered image (I mean, come on, Tylenol is “so safe” that they give it to nursing mothers in the hospital, for goodness sake!) and its almost-hidden presence in hundreds of over-the-counter products…from cold medicines, to headache pills, to cough syrups…can add up to a deadly overdose all too easily.
And in case you think I’m being a bit dramatic here, please let me assure you that I’m not. In fact, the tragic story of Marcus Trunk…featured here in this webinar with HealthierTalk.com contributor Jenny Thompson…is proof that acetaminophen can kill.
In addition to causing liver failure, it has been found to essentially double the risk of eczema and asthma in some children.
To find dozens of safe alternative-pain-relief options, just visit HealthierTalk.com and type “pain relief” into the search box in the upper right hand corner. It has been said that pain is inevitable, but death from acetaminophen-caused liver failure certainly doesn’t have to be.
“FDA limits acetaminophen in prescription combination products; requires liver toxicity warnings, FDA News Release, January 13,2010
“Acetaminophen Use and Risk of Asthma, Rhinoconjunctivitis, and Eczema in Adolescents,” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol 183. pp. 171-178, (2011)
“Study: Acetaminophen may double asthma risk in kids,” CNN.com, August 13, 2010
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