Four months ago the Food and Drug Administration warned doctors to stop writing prescriptions for prescription medications containing more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen, The agency also warned pharmacists to stop dispensing them, and for patients to stop taking them. In an unusual move, the FDA last week issued a reminder warning.

Acetaminophen overdose has overtaken viral hepatitis as the most common cause of acute liver failure. It is now the second-most common cause of liver failure requiring transplantation in the United States.

In January, the FDA called on doctors, dentists and pharmacists to stop writing or recommending prescriptions for drugs including Vicodin and Percocet that had more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen.

It had been thought that higher acetaminophen doses could enhance a painkiller’s effectiveness and make it less addictive.

However, the FDA now believes that high doses have not proven to be superior, and that they pose dangers to the liver, especially because patients sometimes also take over-the-counter acetaminophen.

The voluntary withdrawal does not affect over-the-counter medications, and pharmacy shelves continue to sell “extra-strength” over the counter acetaminophen (500 milligrams) for pain relief, as well as over the counter products including Benadryl, Excedrin, Nyquil, Robitussin, Theraflu  and Vicks.     5/4/14

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