FDA: Hey America, Stop Overdosing On Painkillers!

Look, we know this recession is tough and all, but you’ve gotta lay off the NyQuil and Theraflu or the FDA will stuff them behind a counter, ok? Seriously, an advisory panel is meeting today, and already voted to reduce the maximum daily dose of Tylenol and other painkillers. They might even slap scary “black box” warnings on all over-the-counter painkillers to dissuade you acetaminophen addicts from overdosing.

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel voted 21-16 to lower the current maximum dose of nonprescription acetaminophen, which is 4 grams, or eight pills per day. Taking more than that can cause potentially fatal liver damage.

Despite years of educational campaigns and other federal actions, acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S., sending 56,000 people to the emergency room annually, according to the FDA.

The drugs that could be pulled off shelves are combination medications, such as Procter & Gamble’s NyQuil or Novartis’ Theraflu, which combine acetaminophen with other ingredients that treat cough and runny nose.

The FDA says patients often pair them with a pure acetaminophen medication, like Tylenol, exposing themselves to unsafe levels of the drug.

Drug makers Wyeth and Johnson & Johnson are rushing to defend your right to take the edge off life, but the FDA is still likely to follow the advisory panel’s recommendations. Next time your head starts to hurt, pour a nice big glass of water, and resist the urge to pop a few happy pills. Your liver will thank you.

FDA panel recommends smaller doses of painkillers [AP]
FDA may put restrictions on Tylenol [AP]
(Photo: inhisgrace)