When a patients picks up a prescription medication from the pharmacy, there is usually a detailed patient information sheet that includes warnings about the medication. And who hasn’t heard the television commercials for pharmaceuticals that list a number of dire possible outcomes? What patients often don’t realize is that over the counter medications can be even more toxic than prescription medications.
This week the FDA is issuing new regulations intended to reduce the risk of severe liver injury and allergic reactions associated with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States and between 1998 and 2003 it was the leading cause of acute liver failure in the country; half of the cases were accidental overdoses. Since acetaminophen is in so many different products, patients can inadvertently exceed the maximum daily adult dose of 4000 mg/day. The toxicity is markedly increased when combined with even a modest amount of alcohol.
When buying an over the counter medication, read the label carefully. Keep track of all medications, both over the counter and prescription, to lessen the risk of liver damage. And never combine alcohol with acetaminophen.