The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released new data pointing out that prescription pain killers are the leading cause of death in women. Another new study by ProPublica has declared that acetaminophen, is the deadliest over the counter painkiller.
Acetominophen is the leading ingredient of Tylenol one of the most popular over the counter painkillers on the market today and is considered the silent killer.
Acetaminophen overdoses send more than 78,000 people to the emergency room every year. They have also been responsible for more than 1,500 deaths since 2001, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health.
The study also shows taking too much acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure and the FDA has warned that ingesting only two doses above the recommended amount can produce potentially deadly liver damage.
In comparison, it takes ingesting about twenty times the recommended amount of ibuprofen, or Advil, and about eight times the amount of aspirin to experience similar damages.
“There are very few symptoms and that’s one of the dangerous things,” said Dr. Nicholas Havens at the VA Hospital. “When people start displaying symptoms like yellowish skin or digestive issues, it’s already too late and the extensive liver damage has occurred.”
Dr. Havens and Bill Morrissey of Kilgore’s Medical Pharmacy both believe that many people do not read the labels for correct dosage, but they think most of the overdoses come from acetaminophen being mixed in with other medicines like cold medicine.
“There are different medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription, that have acetaminophen in them, and you’re getting this extra amount without even realizing it,” Morrissey said.
The CDC by comparison has released additional data this year that confirms that women in particular are vulnerable to prescription overdoses with an increased rate of death.
Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.
For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the emergency department for painkiller misuse or abuse. About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.
Although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses (more than 10,000 deaths in 2010), the gap between men and women is closing. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have risen more sharply than among men; since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was more than 400% among women compared to 265% in men. This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade. Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed while making sure women have access to safe, effective pain treatment.