The Food and Drug Administration has renewed warnings to consumers about the potential dangers of the drug acetaminophen, which can be found in Tylenol as well as in prescription pain killers such as Percocet and Vicodin. Regulators say that liver damage can result when patients take even slightly more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen.
In some severe cases taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver failure and even death. The total amount of the drug that adults should take in a 24-hour period is 4,000 milligrams, which sounds like a lot at first glance. However, if someone is taking Extra-strength Tylenol for serious pain, it requires only 8 pills to get to that limit. Imagine the average adult with back pain or arthritis taking two pills at a time, and this could add up quickly to a toxic amount of acetaminophen.
There has been some controversy about this medication in the past, since some have argued that warnings on the label are not sufficient for consumers to understand the serious risks of an overdose. Most consumers believe that taking slightly more than the recommended amount will not be harmful, and that is true with many medications, but not with acetaminophen. Companies are liable for injuries that occur as a result of insufficient warnings.
In addition to the warnings to the public, the FDA is also asking manufacturers of prescription medications that contain acetaminophen to reduce the total amount that is in each pill to help prevent overdoses. Another announcement is expected to be made soon that will pertain to over-the-counter drugs containing acetaminophen.
Source: Daily Mail, “FDA warns that drugs containing acetaminophen doses over 325mg can lead to liver damage and even death,” David McCormack, Jan. 15, 2014.