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Acetaminophen Overdoses Send 80,000 to ER Every Year

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November 6, 2014 — Overdoses of acetaminophen, the painkiller in Tylenol and hundreds of over-the-counter medications, send 80,000 Americans to the emergency room every year.

Johnson & Johnson and Ortho-McNeill, the manufacturers of Tylenol, have been hit with over 160 lawsuits from people who had liver damage, including liver failure, after taking the drug as recommended. The lawsuits are pending in federal court in Pennsylvania, MDL No. 2436.

Consumer Reports warns that acetaminophen is now the leading cause of liver failure. They warn that studies have shown that people who take the maximum recommended dose of 4,000-mg/day can develop brain, kidney, and liver damage after just a few days. Many over-the-counter products still have daily doses that come very close to the 4,000-mg threshold.

Consumer Reports recommends limiting your daily acetaminophen intake to no more than 3,250-mg. It is also a good idea to carefully read the label on all your medications to avoid accidentally taking more than one medication with acetaminophen.

One of the most common reasons people take acetaminophen is for the treatment of low-back pain. However, a study published in The Lancet found that people who took acetaminophen for low-back pain did not recover any faster than people who took no medications, raising questions about the near-universal endorsement of acetaminophen for this purpose.

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