Date: March 31st, 2015
You may take it and not even know it by the technical name: acetaminophen. But if you are one of the 100 million Americans who suffer from persistent pain, you may be aware of its effectiveness as a pain reliever.
In fact more than 50 million Americans use one of 600 different prescription and OTC medications containing acetaminophen every week for their pain. It’s America’s most common drug ingredient and safe and effective when used appropriately.
However, taking more acetaminophen than directed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (4,000 mg per day) can lead to liver damage. Due to ongoing concerns regarding misuse and unintentional overdose of acetaminophen, the FDA has considered making products that contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dose only available through a doctor’s prescription.
A new survey of 1,600 individuals ages 18 and older released by the Alliance for Aging Research found that an overwhelming majority of people think this would be a bad idea. They believe more education about potential hazards would offer a better way to increase safe use and maintain access.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the findings. (Note: To see an infographic of these stats, please go here.)
- 77 percent of those under age 60, and 68 percent of those over age 60, prefer consumer education to government restriction as a way to protect people from acetaminophen overdose.
- 75 percent of respondents under age 60, and 70 percent of respondents over age 60, believe that the FDA should not change its policies to require a doctor’s prescription to buy extra-strength Tylenol or an equivalent store brand.
- 52 percent of those under age 60, and 45 percent over age 60, believe that requiring a prescription will make it more difficult to access safe pain medications.
- Only 11 percent of those under age 60, and 19 percent over age 60, would go to a doctor for a prescription.
- 40 percent of those under age 60 and, 30 percent of those over age 60, would stop using Tylenol or an equivalent store brand and change to a different pain reliever. This is significant because some of these respondents reported having been diagnosed with conditions in which other pain relievers may not be appropriate, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, renal dysfunction, ulcers, acid reflux, or GERD.
In 2009, the Alliance conducted a similar survey of adults ages 60 and over. The results from the original survey showed that attitudes regarding access and restrictions to OTC pain relievers among those over age 60 have not changed.
“Over the past five years, consumer views have been consistent—people support current availability of acetaminophen-containing OTC products and don’t want that access further restricted,” says Cynthia Bens, the Alliance’s vice president of public policy. “The aging of our population means that more Americans will be faced with persistent pain. Potential barriers to OTC medication access may have unintended health consequences for seniors who rely on OTC pain relievers that contain acetaminophen to reduce their pain and maintain their quality of life.”
The Alliance for Aging Research has been engaged in activities promoting education on acetaminophen use. We are actively involved in the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition and promote initiatives like the Centers for Disease Control’s Up and Away Campaign. We also have our own Grandparents Safe Storage info page.