Acetaminophen and the Risk for Liver Damage
On June 30, 2009, a panel of U.S. health advisers assembled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the maximum dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen be lowered. The panel is weighing several additional options, including recommending the withdrawal of certain combination drugs, such as NyQuil, and/or adding a black box warning to the labels of medications containing acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen, or paracetamol, is a widely used over-the-counter pain reliever, fever reducer, and as a major ingredient in numerous cold and remedies. It is popular, in part, because it is easier on the stomach than aspirin and ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is also used in the management of more severe pain in combination with NSAIDs and opioid analgesics.
Acetaminophen works by disrupting the synthesis of prostaglandins. These are hormone-like substances that constrict blood vessels and contract smooth muscle. But when too much acetaminophen is introduced, hormones that detoxify your system become overwhelmed and white blood cells in the liver, known as Kupffer cells, release free radicals that deplete your body's antioxidants, and signals are sent that prepare liver cells for death.
Acetaminophen toxicity, in fact, is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western world. It also accounts for the most drug overdoses in several countries including the United States.
In May 2009, the FDA released a report finding that a lack of consumer awareness that acetaminophen can cause such injury was resulting in cases of severe liver damage and death. Many consumers also often have the mistaken belief that taking more is more effective against pain without posing such health risks. In some cases, customers are not aware that so many over-the-counter products contain acetaminophen.
Non-prescription products that contain acetaminophen include (and are not limited to) Actifed, Alka-Seltzer Plus, Anacin, Benadryl, Comtrex, Contac, Coricidin, Dimetapp, Dristan, Drixoral, Excedrin, Feverall, Goody's Powders, Midol, NyQuil/DayQuil, Pamprin, Percogesic, Robitussin, Singlet, Sinutab, Sudafed, Tavist, TheraFlu, Triaminic, Tylenol, Vanquish, Vicks.
Prescription products that contain acetaminophen include Anexsia, APAP, Axocet, Butalbital, Capital, Codeine, Darvocet, Endocet, Esgic, Fioricet, Hydrocet, Hydrocodone Bitartrate, Lorcet, Lortab, Midrin, Norco, Norel Plus, Oxycodone, Pentazocine HCl, Percocet, Phenaphen, Phosphate, Phrenilin, Propoxyphene, Roxicet, Talacen, Tylenol, Tylox, Ultracet, Vicodin, Wygesic, Zebutal, Zydone.
If you or a loved one has developed liver complications after using any of these products, or any other product that contains acetaminophen, there may be a link, even if the product was used as directed. Contact a qualified acetaminophen liver damage attorney to be apprised of your legal rights and options.