Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the US. About 200 Americans die from acetaminophen poisoning each year.
The Food and Drug Administration is calling for sweeping safety restrictions on the pain killer, including reducing the maximum dose of Tylenol and eliminating prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Percocet which contain acetaminophen.
An FDA panel rejected a proposal to take Nyquil and Theraflu off the market. But that panel, does recommend lowering the maximum dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen from 4 grams. That’s eight pills of Extra Strength Tylenol. The panel also endorsed limiting the maximum single dose of the drug to 650 milligrams, down from the current 1000-milligram dose. That’s two pills of Extra Strength Tylenol. The panel will send its recommendation to FDA leaders for a final decision.
Dr. John Black is President of the South Carolina Medical Association. He works with Lexington County Primary Care. “I think that most people don’t even look to see what the maximum dose of a medicine should be, and most people don’t get into trouble, but some do.”
Dr. Black warns that overdosing is not hard to do. “Some over-the-counter cold medicines contain Acetaminophen. A person needs to look and she how much each medicine contains.”
Black says overdosing is not the only issue with Tylenol products. He says the drug’s affect on the liver is increased when it’s combined with alcohol. “If you regularly drink three drinks a day or more, be careful in taking Acetaminophen with that.”
Doctors commonly advise agaisnt taking acetaminiophen with alcohol, but one USC researcher goes so far as to recommend against taking the drug within 10 days of even moderate alcohol consumption. He says the dangerous affect from the drug only occurs in one third of the population, and mostly in women, but he says it’s not worth the risk.