For a drug that's so freely available, you'd imagine that it is safe. And our drug watchdogs assure us that it is when taken at the recommended dose of 4g a day.
It's not. One study discovered that it caused liver damage in up to 44 per cent of all participants who were taking it at the standard dose. In fact, paracetamol has become the major cause of acute liver failure in the USA and Europe, a condition that will almost certainly kill the patient unless the diseased organ is replaced.
Some of these cases have been the result of unintentional overdose - where perhaps one tablet too many has been taken - and fatalities have occurred at doses as low as 7g, just 3g above the recommended dose.
Despite the evidence, you won't in anyway be surprised to hear that America's drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, isn't changing the way the drug is made so freely available, even after a 'careful consideration' of the many fatalities.
(Source: The Lancet, 2006; 368: 2395-6).
E-news broadcast 4 January 2007 No.322 [Subscribe]