On June 30, a federal advisory panel voted to propose a ban on Percocet and Vicodin, which are two of the most desired painkillers. The reason for this ban is because of the harmful effects that they can have on the liver.
A combination of a narcotic and acetaminophen is found in these two drugs. Acetaminophen is the ingredient that is found in common over-the-counter products such as Tylenol and Excedrin. Large amounts of acetaminophen are a leading cause of liver damage. The panel mentioned that patients who take Percocet and Vicodin for extended periods of time ususally need more and more increased doses. The panel’s vote, which arose out of a meeting to advise the FDA on problems stemming from the increasing popularity of acetaminophen, was 20-17 to recommend a ban on the combination drugs.
In 2005, 28 billion doses that contain acetaminophen were bought by American consumers. Every year, there are more than 400 people that die and 42,000 who are hospitalized from overdoses in the U.S.
There are at least 7 other prescription drugs in which acetaminophen is combined with different narcotics, and if the FDA listens to the expert’s advice, all of these combination pills will be banned. Vicodin and its generic equals are prescribed more than 100 million times annually in the United States.
The committee also voted 24-13 to suggest that the FDA decrease the highest allowed dose in o.t.c. medicine such as Tylenol from 500 milligrams to 325. They also voted 21-16 to bring down the maximum daily dosage to less than 4,000 milligrams.
Tylenol’s maker, Johnson & Johnson, said that it disagrees with the recommended restrictions on acetaminophen, saying that it might lead to even more dangerous results as people move towards other over-the-counter products such as Advil and aspirin.
Children’s medicines that contain acetaminophen were also an issue as the committee voted 36-1 to limit them to a single formulation. Currently the liquids are sold in two different concentrations, which confuses some doctors and parents. After deliberation, FDA officials indicated that they would probably decide on the less concentrated formula. That way, if parents make a mistake, there would be less chance of an overdose.
A lot of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines such as Excedrin and Nyquil contain acetaminophen. Accidental poisonings happen when two or more of these combination products are taken because the danger is not known. A vote of 24-13 was cast against the ban against these children’s medicines because the danger was perceived as slight.
A study done in 2005 showed that the majority of poisonings happened when people took Vicodin or similar products containing a narcotic with acetaminophen.