New Report Highlights the Dangers of Acetaminophen

By August 13, 2014Healthy Aging

It’s no secret that the body’s aches and pains can grow substantially worse as time goes by. Chronic pain is a serious problem among people of all ages, but it’s particularly a condition that plagues seniors. Non-prescription painkillers are one of the first treatment options older adults turn to for relief – particularly in the form of acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol). The problem is the use of Tylenol has skyrocketed over the last several years and, according to a new Consumer Report, accidental acetaminophen overdoses are growing to be a serious problem.

Over-the-Counter Dangers
The rise of popular over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, particularly acetaminophen, leads to more than 80,000 emergency room visits each year. More often than not, these emergencies resulted from taking way too much acetaminophen. It’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand that acetaminophen is found in more than Tylenol. In fact, the drug is an active ingredient of over 600 OTC and prescription medications, such as allergy relief, common cold remedies and sleep aids.
The Consumer Report also said that OTC drugs do not have scientifically-proven data to support guidelines for the consumer’s recommended acetaminophen levels. No one seems to know how much acetaminophen should be considered “too much” over a 24-hour period.

“We found recommendations varying from 1,000mg per day in some nighttime pain relievers to 3,900 milligrams in some products that combine acetaminophen with allergy drugs or cold and flu drugs. We think the labeled daily limit should be no more than 3,250 milligrams,” the report reads.

Going Forward
In an attempt to prevent more accidental acetaminophen overdoses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to alter its prescribing guidelines. Physicians are now under orders from the FDA, preventing the medical professionals from prescribing more than 325mg of acetaminophen for patients. The FDA also mentioned that clinical trials have yet to prove higher doses of the drug can offer additional pain relieving benefits.

For seniors who rely on OTC acetaminophen for frequent pain relief, the Consumer Report piece should serve as a source of knowledge. If a decrease in the dosage amount is not possible, speak with the family physician about regular monitoring of pain and blood work to determine liver health.

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