WASHINGTON — New research released Tuesday found that when it comes to treating pain, a growing number of consumers know how to safely use medicines with acetaminophen and to avoid accidental overdose and liver damage. A nationwide consumer survey conducted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association Educational Foundation, in conjunction with its work on the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition’s Know Your Dose educational campaign, shows that consumer safe use knowledge and risk awareness has increased over a three year period (2010-2013).
“More than 50 million people use medicines containing acetaminophen each week to relieve pain. We are very encouraged to see more consumers today know how and why to follow the label and dosing directions when taking acetaminophen to ensure safe and appropriate use,” stated Emily Skor, executive director of the CHPA Educational Foundation. “These research findings validate the importance of our ongoing consumer education initiatives. They will continue to serve as a benchmark for educational efforts as we find new ways to engage and educate consumers about the safe use of medicines.”
“Awareness is a critical step toward behavior change. These strides in consumer knowledge about the safe use of pain relievers and acetaminophen specifically are gratifying, and reinforce the need for continued education to ensure that knowledge translates into a reduction in acetaminophen-related liver damage,” added Anne Norman, a family nurse practitioner and associate VP of education at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “In my own practice, I’ve seen patients unknowingly take more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at the same time and exceed the recommended daily dose. That’s why ongoing education is so important — via healthcare providers, via pharmacists, via media and other channels. Reaching consumers at key points of relevancy and impact remain important as we continue to work together to drive safe medicine use.”
Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers, fever reducers and sleep aids as well as cough, cold, and allergy medicines. Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed but there is a limit to how much can be taken in one day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends taking no more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.
Findings from the national survey of 1,000 consumers who have taken a pain reliever in the past 6-12 months show enhanced consumer knowledge and awareness of key medicine safety issues:
- Label reading: More consumers agree that it is “important to check the label to find out the maximum daily dose” of medicines (increased to 98% in 2013 from 93% in 2010);
- Following dosing instructions: More consumers agree it is “important not to exceed the dosing directions on the label” of pain relievers (increased to 96% in 2013 from 90% in 2010);
- Awareness of risk: More consumers understand that “exceeding the recommended daily dose of acetaminophen may lead to liver damage” (increased to 87% in 2013 from 78% in 2010); and
- Avoidance of “doubling up:” Knowledge that “acetaminophen can be found in many over-the-counter and prescription pain medicines” (increased to 87% from 80% in 2010) andu nderstanding that “it is possible to exceed the maximum daily dose when taking an OTC acetaminophen product at the same time as a prescription pain medicine” (increased to 81% from 76% in 2010).