Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 28, 2009

Are you too stupid to take Extra-Strength Tylenol?

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:26 am

An FDA panel has recommended limiting the tablet size of acetaminophen to 325 mg (“regular strength”) because taking too much can cause liver damage.

“There is extensive evidence that hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) caused by acetaminophen use may result from lack of consumer awareness that acetaminophen can cause severe liver injury,” the working group report said.

And they recommend banning acetaminophen in “combination” products, like cold medicines:

Consumers may not be aware that acetaminophen is present in many over-the-counter combination products, so they may unknowingly exceed the recommended acetaminophen dose if they take more than one acetaminophen product without knowing that both contain acetaminophen,” the report said.

So basically, they are saying that people are too dumb to read the label. And by the way, they are going to fix that by changing the label.

The recommendations also call for limiting the maximum adult daily dose [listed on the label] to no more than 3,250 milligrams. The current recommendation stands at 4,000 milligrams per day.

So, people are too dumb to read the label, but smart enough not to take more tablets to make up for the fact that each tablet has less medicine in it.

Are there any studies to back that up? If people aren’t reading the label, it’s just as possible that instead of assuming “all pills are equal” they’ll assume that “extra strength is twice as strong as regular” — and will therefore take twice as many “regular” pills. That means their dose will go up, not down — since the “regular” pills are two-thirds the strength, not half the strength, of the “extra strength” pills.