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News2011May › Household painkillers contain lethal ingredient › May 2011

Household painkillers contain lethal ingredient

The active ingredient in many painkillers and cough remedies we buy in our local stores can be lethal if we take too much of it

The active ingredient in many painkillers and cough remedies we buy in our local stores can be lethal if we take too much of it.
Paracetamol - acetaminophen in the US - can cause acute, and often fatal, liver failure if we overdose on it. And because it's in so many over-the-counter remedies - from painkillers to cough and cold treatments - it is too easy to overdose.
The trouble is that most of us don't realise that paracetamol can be lethal or that it is in many self-help remedies, according to a recent survey. "People think 'if I can buy it without prescription, it can't be harmful'", says Jennifer King, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
And it isn't always obvious that the remedy contains paracetamol. In the US, for example, many labels refer to it as APAP.
The researchers are calling for a red warning logo on all remedies containing paracetamol, alerting people to the potential liver damage it can cause.
(Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2011; 40: 585-92).


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