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Acetaminophen raises concern for liver damage


According to a new report released yesterday by USAToday, the FDA has asked doctors “to stop prescribing combination medications that contain more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per pill, because of long-standing concerns about liver damage.”

The announcement was made Tuesday and is part of a series of steps the FDA has made over the last several months to reduce the amount of acetaminophen consumed by patients who take the popular pain medicine. In earlier efforts, the FDA also asked certain drug makers to limit medications which contained high doses of the medication. Most manufacturers have agreed.

Common injuries requiring pain medication


It’s not unusual for doctors to prescribe a combination of pain killers for certain procedures such as surgeries and dental. Under these conditions, many doctors will prescribe medications which may contain both an opioid painkillers, such as Hydrocodone, with acetaminophen. In the future, however, the FDA plans to limit approval for medications which contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen. The FDA has also announced that new regulations may be made to the manufacturing of over-the-counter acetaminophen, but did not give details.

Some manufacturers, such as Johnson & Johnson, announced they will proactively add additional warning labels on some of their medication bottles to remind individuals about using the medication safely. Specifically, additional instructions will be added to Extra Strength Tylenol, which contains 500 mg of acetaminophen in each pill.

Additional Acetaminophen  does not outweigh risk of liver damage


The FDA notes that taking more than 325mg of acetaminophen per dosage raises the risk of liver damage. They also note that there is not specific medical data which shows that taking more than this amount is worth the added risks for liver injury. They are hoping by limiting the amount of acetaminophen per dosage they will eliminate what they believe is often an accidental acetaminophen overdose.

Patients who suffer an accidental overdose can suffer liver failure, they may need a liver transplant, or they may die. In fact, the FDA estimates every year “overdoses from acetaminophen send 56,000 people to emergency rooms and kills about 500 patients each year. The drug is also the leading cause of acute liver failure.” The risk increases substantially when patients take more than 4,000 mg in 24 hours, which is the maximum recommended limit.

What should doctors do if a patient needs a large dosage of acetaminophen? The FDA notes that if a medical doctor is involved, they will continue to have the ability to prescribe more medication. For instance, they will be able to prescribe two-pill doses, for a total dose of 650 mg.

Liver damage and SSDI benefits


Patients who have suffered severe liver damage and have a condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or result in death may qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits, assuming they are not able to work and they have paid into the Social Security Administration and are considered insured for benefits.
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