Have the Risks of Acetaminophen Been Underestimated?
Acetaminophen may not be as safe as previously thought, with larger doses and long-term use linked to increased risk of health issues, according to a new report. The results were published online March 2 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Description of Acetaminophen Study
Medscape reports that Philip Conaghan, M.B.B.S., a professor with the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed 1,888 studies related to the use of acetaminophen. They settled on eight studies that met the standards for their review.
The studies involved more than 665,000 people in the United States, Britain, Denmark, and Sweden. People reported their acetaminophen usage, and researchers kept track of any potential health problems they might have. Heavy use of acetaminophen is associated with kidney disease and bleeding in the digestive tract, and also has been linked to increased risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and hypertension.
The overuse of acetaminophen can increase a person's risk of early death as much as sixty percent.
Results of the Study
Because the studies were purely observational, they don't substantiate a cause-and-effect relationship between acetaminophen and these health problems.
Other medications ingested might also have directly contributed to the health problems observed in these studies. The studies also differed in how patients' acetaminophen use was measured. Some studies estimated lifetime intake, while others reported the amount taken each day, week or month, making it downright impossible to draw firm conclusions about what constitutes a “safe” dose.
The study authors are calling for a new systematic review of acetaminophen's effectiveness and safety, stating that the medication's verifiable risks are “higher than that currently perceived in the clinical community.”