WASHINGTON — The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition on Thursday released “Acetaminophen: How It’s Used, Preventing Overdose and What We Can Do to Promote Safe Use,” a report and educational resource to drive safe and appropriate use of one of the United States’ most common drug ingredients. The coalition’s report reviews the dosing behaviors that can lead to acetaminophen overdose and explores the successful impact of ongoing education campaigns to drive appropriate use and prevent overdose-related liver damage.
“Promoting the safe and responsible use of acetaminophen to healthcare professionals and consumers will help to reinforce its appropriate use and avoid overdoses,” stated John Whyte, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Professional Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement in its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We all play an important role in ensuring that the medicines consumers use each day are used as directed and provide the benefits intended.”
Each week, more than 50 million Americans use a medicine that contains acetaminophen — found in more than 600 different over-the-counter and prescription medicines including pain relievers, fever reducers, sleep aids and numerous cough, cold and flu medicines. Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed, but there is a limit to how much can be taken in one day - 4,000 milligrams. Taking more acetaminophen than directed and exceeding the maximum daily dose of 4,000 mg is considered an overdose and can lead to severe liver damage. While the vast majority of consumers take acetaminophen appropriately, research highlighted in the report shows that those who exceed the 4,000 mg/day labeled maximum daily dose are making one or more of three common dosing mistakes:
- Taking the next dose too soon (72% of those who exceeded 4,000 mg/day);
- Using multiple acetaminophen-containing products at the same time (59% of those who exceeded 4,000 mg/day); and/or
- Taking more than the recommended dose at a single time (34% of those who exceeded 4,000 mg/day).
“Educating patients is a key step to promoting safe acetaminophen use and preventing overdose,” stated Anne Norman, associate VP of education, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, a founding organization of the AAC. “We encourage more pharmacists, healthcare professionals and health-involved stakeholder groups to work together to disseminate safe medicine use education and resources.”