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A new report by University of Michigan doctors indicates that individuals who survive liver failure are left with far worse overall health problems if their liver problems were caused by an acetaminophen or Tylenol overdose, when compared to other causes of liver failure.
The study was released on-line by the medical journal Liver Transplantation, finding that individuals report worse mental and physical health following acute liver failure associated with an overdose of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in the controversial painkiller Tylenol.
Researchers looked at data on 282 adult patients who suffered liver failure, after they either received a liver transplant or spontaneously survived. Patients who had suffered an acetaminophen overdose prior to their liver failure reported lower quality of life, with more days where their activities were limited due to poor health, including reports of pain, depression and other problems.
Tylenol and acetaminophen have been reported as a leading cause of liver failure in the United States, with the FDA previously suggesting that the drug is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency room visits each year, including 25,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.
Out of the cases reviewed, 125 of the patients received liver transplants and 157 were spontaneous survivors, with 95 of those surviving an acetaminophen overdose without receiving a liver transplant.
Researchers suggested that the cause for the worse overall health among acetaminophen overdose survivors when compared to other causes for liver failure may be due, in part, to the higher rate of psychiatric problems and substance abuse issues experienced by patients who overdose on acetaminophen.
Tylenol Liver Failure Concerns
Tylenol is one of the most widely used over-the-counter painkillers in the United States, and increasing concerns have been raised in recent years about the risk of liver damage and liver failure, including small accidental overdoses of Tylenol or other acetaminophen-based drugs.
In recent years, the FDA and other health agencies have attempted to raise awareness about the risks of taking too much acetaminophen and liver damage. Some experts believe that many of the overdoses are due to consumers not realizing how widespread the drug is, with acetaminophen being used in numerous cold medications and in combination with other painkillers, in addition to Tylenol.
Some critics have also suggested that inadequate warnings about the risk of liver problems from Tylenol and other medications are provided for consumers, with a very narrow window between the recommended dosage and liver toxicity.
In 2011, after the medication had been promoted for decades as a safe and effective painkiller, Johnson & Johnson lowered the maximum recommended dosage on Tylenol from 4,000 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day. The move came after the FDA announced new limits on acetaminophen levels in prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet.
A growing number of Tylenol liver failure lawsuits are pending in courts throughout the United States, alleging that the drug makers have withheld information about the risks associated with taking the medication and the toxic effects it may have on the liver.
In the federal court system, complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country have been centralized for pretrial proceedings as part of a Tylenol MDL in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, before U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.