When taken as directed, acetaminophen, the primary ingredient in Tylenol, has been proven a safe and reliable pain medication. However, large amounts of acetaminophen have been found in prescription pain drugs, such as Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab, Fioricet, and Roxicet.
Often, consumers are unaware of the amount of acetaminophen that’s been added to these prescription pain relievers, and overdoses can occur.
In fact, in 2010, more than 56,000 hospital visits, 26,000 hospital admissions and nearly 500 deaths occurred as a result of acetaminophen overdoses, many of which were unintended (ie, not suicide attempts).
Surprisingly, acetaminophen-induced liver damage is the #1 cause of acute liver failure here in the U.S. because it’s so easy to ingest too much, especially when one is taking medications that contain large amounts of acetaminophen.
As of this writing, warnings for liver damage can occur when a person with normal liver function takes 4,000 milligrams or more of acetaminophen in a single day. It’s easy to do if a person takes several medications and is unaware that each contains a large dose of acetaminophen.
To eliminate these problems, the FDA has dictated the following changes over the next 3 years:
- Prescription pain drugs can contain no more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per pill or spoonful. Currently, some of these drugs contain as much as 750 milligrams of acetaminophen.
- Prescription pain drugs will carry the FDA’s strongest “black box” warning label. That label will warn of the risk of serious liver injury.
These dictates apply exclusively to prescription drugs.
“When taken as directed, acetaminophen is a very safe product. Our goal is to make it even safer,” Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the FDA’s office of new drugs, said at a news teleconference.
Our advice to you is to be aware of the presence of acetaminophen in both prescription drugs you take, as well as OTC (over-the-counter) medications. If you don’t know if there’s acetaminophen in a pain, cold or other preparation, ask your pharmacist to check for you. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
To your health & beauty,
*The information on this page is not intended to be used as medical advice in any way. Always consult with your doctor for any health related concerns. This page does not communicate the full list of complete risks and potential complications from these medications.