Narrowly passing in a vote Tuesday, a federal advisory panel is recommending a ban on Percocet and Vicodin. These are probably the two most popular prescription painkillers in the world. Their decision was largely based on what damage it can cause to the liver.
Specifically, these two drugs combine a narcotic with acetaminophen, the ingredient found in popular over-the-counter products like Tylenol and Excedrin. Statistics show that high doses of acetaminophen are a leading cause of liver damage, and the panel noted that patients who take Percocet and Vicodin for long periods often need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect.
In at least seven other prescription drugs, Acetaminophen is an ingredient that is combined with these different narcotics. All of these combination pills will be banned if the Food and Drug Administration follows the advice of its experts. Vicodin and its generic equivalents alone are prescribed more than 100 million times a year in the United States.
This medicine is effective in treating headaches and to help reduce fevers, but even recommended doses can cause liver damage in some people. For example, more than 400 people die and over 42,000 are hospitalized each year in the United States from overdoses.
Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s maker, has stated that it “strongly disagrees” with the proposed restrictions on acetaminophen. Their spokesperson adds that they would be likely to lead to more serious adverse events as consumers would be forced to switch to other over-the-counter products, like Advil and aspirin.