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Did you know that between 1998 and 2003, acetaminophen was the leading cause of liver failure in the United States? Forty-eight percent of these cases were caused by accidental acetaminophen overdose.
A Centers for Disease Control report from 2007 found there are around 1,600 cases of liver failure each year and that the most common cause for this is acetaminophen.
Between the years 1990-1998, there were 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 458 deaths due to acetaminophen use.
Various medical studies have found that when patients take acetaminophen along with another prescription drug, it makes it more dangerous and it makes the likelihood of overdose more common, as there may be additional acetaminophen in the prescription drug.
In 2005, there were 1,187 poisoning cases with single ingredient prescription drugs, 653 poisonings for combination drugs and 1,470 poisonings for prescription opioid drugs.
Due to the risk of severe liver injury from acetaminophen, regulatory authorities have recommended withdrawing combination prescription medications from the market, adding boxed warnings to the patient information leaflets regarding liver failure and limiting the amount of acetaminophen contained in a dose.
Acetaminophen products will now be limited to a maximum dosage of 325 mg per dose so that patients will be less likely to overdose accidentally.
There are many medications that are affected by this measure, including acetaminophen and caffeine products, Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine number 3, Tylenol with Codeine number 4, Esgic Plus, Fioricet, Fioricet with Codeine, Phrenilin with Caffeine and Codeine, Anexsia, Co-Gesic, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, Zydone, Percocet, Roxicet, Roxilox, Tylox, Talacen and Ultracet.
Advice for Patients Using Prescription Pain Medication
• If worried about your medication, speak to your doctor.
• Acetaminophen is relatively safe when used as directed but all medicines have risks.
• Read the patient information leaflets for all drugs you are taking to make sure that your other prescription medications don’t contain acetaminophen.