Finally, folks in the mainstream are ready to talk common sense when it comes to painkillers.
I've been warning my patients about these dangerous drugs for years, but until recently I've been a voice in the wilderness. Now, it seems like you can't pick up a newspaper without reading about a new warning of their dangers.
The latest comes from an advisory panel of outside experts examining acetaminophen for the Food and Drug Administration. And you can tell they're outsiders, because the advice they're giving is to scrap some powerful and popular prescription painkillers and recommend lower doses of some of the most common over-the-counter meds containing acetaminophen.
Big Pharma, as you can guess, won't take this one quietly. They're already kicking and screaming that lower doses will cause folks to turn to other, more dangerous painkillers.
I think they're more worried about the $2.6 billion in sales generated by products containing acetaminophen last year.
Acetaminophen has become a common ingredient in everything from those painkillers to cold meds. Because it's in so many different drugs, it's especially easy to take too much of it – so easy, in fact, that acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure.
Not only that, but 56,000 Americans visit emergency rooms every year because of an acetaminophen overdose. Most of these people had no idea they were taking so much of a powerful drug – and that's exactly why it's high time someone stepped in to stop this madness.
The panel is asking that the high doses of acetaminophen currently available over the counter be made prescription-only drugs, and that the current recommended dose for normal over-the-counter use be lowered. They're also asking that the most powerful prescription drugs containing acetaminophen be banned altogether.
The FDA does not have to follow the advice of its panels, but often does. In this case, it would be a great leap in the right direction. But the reality is, these drugs should not be in common usage at any dose.
Already, the FDA has taken action on other common painkillers, ordering stronger warnings on the packages of some and finally trying to get everyone's attention when it comes to these meds, which too many people take far too often.
While no one enjoys pain, the pain itself is a symptom – a message from your body that something is wrong. Taking a painkiller and ignoring the pain is akin to covering up the gas gauge on your car when it blinks because the tank's almost empty.
Instead of hiding the pain, you need to sit down with your doc and figure out what's causing it – especially those regular and persistent pains.
And then, rather than masking your pains, you can figure out how to heal yourself and get off those meds for good.