Chances are you’ve taken acetaminophen in the past year. After all, it’s a common medication found in a host of popular over-the-counter products, including cold and flu medications. While these seem harmless (they’re available over the counter, after all!), acetaminophen overdose is currently the leading cause of liver failure in the US.
The problem isn’t simply due to people using—or abusing—cold medicine. Acetaminophen is also found in popular brand-name painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin. As a result, an advisory panel has recommended that the FDA ban hydrocodone and oxycodone products (the active ingredients in Vicodin and Percocet as well as various generic versions) that contain acetaminophen.
Now it’s up to the Food & Drug Administration to decide how to proceed. This powerful regulatory agency recently announced they are considering changing their recommendations. To start, the FDA has already recommended lowering the maximum recommended dose of acetaminophen from 1,000 mg per dose to 650 mg. They also recommended lowering the maximum daily dose, which is currently 4 grams (or 4,000 mg).
The FDA isn’t required to take the recommendation of the advisory panel, although they usually do. Since the vote to ban Vicodin and Percocet-type drugs was close, though, a ban is not a foregone conclusion.
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