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Acetaminophen Overdoses in Hospitals on the Rise

According to the results of a new study, hospitals are providing patients with excessive doses of acetaminophen at alarming rates. The active ingredient found in Tylenol, acetaminophen has recently been linked to liver damage, liver failure, and death. Sadly, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued statistics indicating that acetaminophen is a leading cause of liver failure in the United States, resulting in more than 50,000 emergency room visits and nearly 500 deaths each year.


What’s the problem?

May 25, 2012 – In the new study, which was conducted at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, researchers examined medication records and hospital admissions for 46,000 patients over a two year period, and found that the recommended maximum dosage for acetaminophen was exceeded for approximately 1,100 of those patients on at least one occasion. According to the research, very few of those patients who were given an overdose of acetaminophen were later tested for liver problems.

According to a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, even small acetaminophen overdoses – those barely exceeding the four gram daily recommendation – pose a serious risk of liver injury. The research found that patients were more likely to suffer serious and potentially life-threatening injuries from so-called ‘staggered overdoses,’ which are usually small and accidental, than from large overdoses such as in a suicide. Injuries occur more often with staggered overdoses because the risk of liver damage is not as easily detectable.

Last May, an FDA advisory panel convened to make recommendations about new warnings and other regulatory actions for acetaminophen products. The committee decided to add stronger warnings about the potential risk for liver damage, as well to include clearer indications as to exactly which drugs contain the ingredient to reduce the likelihood of an overdose.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of Tylenol liver injury lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson in courthouses around the country on behalf of individuals allegedly injured by the drug’s side effects. The vast majority of the complaints allege that the pharmaceutical giant manufactured and marketed Tylenol for years without adequate warnings about the risk of exceeding the maximum daily dose or the risk of liver damage.

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