The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already warns that acetaminophen is toxic to the liver, and is linked to liver failure and other serious problems. Healthy adults who took the maximum dose of Tylenol for two weeks were found to have liver damage, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
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But many people are completely unaware that Tylenol can be toxic to your liver, even at recommended doses. Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver failure, liver transplant and death. Acetaminophen is currently the leading cause of sudden liver failure in the U.S., as its toxic metabolites have been shown to kill liver cells. The drug is so toxic that as many as 80,000 people are rushed to the emergency room annually due to acetaminophen poisoning, and another 500-or-so end up dead from liver failure.
In fact, a new study, led by Dr. Kenneth Simpson of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, found that you’remore likely to die from a “staggered overdose” (taking just a little bit too much for several days or weeks) of Tylenol than from a single large overdose.
These are disturbing figures that might come as a surprise to most people, especially considering that millions of Americans pop Tylenol and acetaminophen-containing drugs on a regular basis. But with more than 85 personal injury lawsuits and counting filed against the company in federal court, McNeil is feeling the heat from a drug that has long been claimed as one of the safest painkiller drugs on the market, which it clearly is not.
“The warning will make it explicitly clear that the over-the-counter drug contains acetaminophen, a pain-relieving ingredient that’s the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure,” writes Matthew Perrone for the AP. “The new cap is designed to grab the attention of people who don’t read warnings that already appear in the fine print on the product’s label, according to company executives.”
The new label, which will bear the phrases “CONTAINS ACETAMINOPHEN” and “ALWAYS READ THE LABEL,” is set to first appear on all bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol, which contains more than 50 percent more acetaminophen per dose than regular strength Tylenol. And in the coming months, all bottles of Tylenol, including regular strength Tylenol, will bear the new label.
Now an FDA advisory panel is finally recommending that cough and cold drugs that contain the pain reliever acetaminophen be banned altogether because of these serious risks of liver damage. The panel also recommended taking the popular prescription painkillers Vicodin and Percocet (which both contain acetaminophen) off the market because of similar risks of liver damage.