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Common Pain Pill Poses Major Health Risk

24 FEB 2014

This week, the AAPS blog looks at recent FDA regulations concerning acetaminophen, a common pain reliever that is sold both over the counter and by prescription. Both Canada and the US have been scrutinizing the drug over the last several years, considering ways to regulate its consumption in the wake of widespread overdosing. A recent blog post, Common Pain Pill Poses Major Health Risk, says that when it comes to acetaminophen,

the FDA recently recommended we re-consider just how much of it we’re ingesting. The agency is instructing health care professionals to discontinue prescribing and dispensing prescription combination drug products that contain more than 325 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen per tablet, capsule or other dosage unit.  When taken in combination with other drugs, patients often fail to keep track of acetaminophen – and while there is no evidence to suggest taking more does your body good, clinical research reveals that taking too much of the drug can result in liver failure, liver transplant, and death.

Each year in the US, acetaminophen overdosing sends almost 80,000 people to the emergency room, and it kills at least 500.  Health Canada has noted that incorrect dosing of the drug for children has resulted in increasing cases of liver failure. One of the biggest problems is patients’ failure to recognize how much acetaminophen they’re ingesting when the drug is “hidden” in combination medicines. The quantities add up quickly when users seek to address multiple symptoms, like congestion and sinus pain, headache and arthritis symptoms. The FDA is now seeking to rescind its approval of drugs that incorporate more than the stipulated 325 mg per dose.