The real Tylenol scare

Ironically the present problem may be the result of the previous success. Millions of patients now believe Tylenol to be perfectly safe, its competitors somewhat dicey. The FDA panel's findings scramble that equation, and it will be interesting to see what the panel recommends now for patients in severe pain.

Back in 1982, Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson created a business legend through its deft handling of a panic caused by someone who was tampering with medicine bottles.

Today it's waking up to a second scare, and this one will be harder to deal with.

Since the successful management of that 1982 incident acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, has become America's go-to pain reliever.

Even in my house. Aspirin is hard on the stomach, Ibuprophen is not recommended for hypertensives, so there's a great big bottle of acetaminophen in my cupboard right now. Hangover? Back pain? Wrist pain from too much blogging? Two in the mouth, son.

But this habit can do more damage to your liver than the drinking. It's not so much that this medication is dangerous, it's just we take too much of it. Those pills in my medicine chest are 500 mg each. When a hangover comes on betcha can't eat just one.

So an FDA panel wants those pills cut down to 325 mg. max, with the daily maximum cut to 4,000 mg. and warnings of possible liver damage on the bottle.

But the big news here is the panel also voted, 20-17, to ban drugs like Vicodin and Percocet, which combine the drug with narcotics. That's very bad news for Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet, and Abbott Labs, the maker of Vicodin.

Abbott has temporarily taken down the Vicodin.com site. The Tylenol site is currently featuring a page assuring that the medicine is safe, taken as directed, but warning against overuse and combination drugs.

The ban is also going to be bad news for Internet pharmacies and Internet advertising, as both drugs are heavily advertised online, from both legitimate and illegitimate sources. Both drugs are also heavily abused. The narcotic in Percocet is oxycodine, also known as "hillbilly heroin." Hydrocordone is the secret ingredient in Vicodin.

Ironically the present problem may be the result of the previous success. Millions of patients now believe Tylenol to be perfectly safe, its competitors somewhat dicey. The FDA panel's findings scramble that equation, and it will be interesting to see what the panel recommends now for patients in severe pain.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com