The maker of Tylenol is changing its packaging to better warn consumers of the risks of taking too much acetaminophen. Overdosing can cause dangerous, even deadly, liver damage, and consumers aren't always reading the fine print.
September 3, 2013

The maker of Tylenol is changing its packaging to better warn consumers of the risks of taking too much acetaminophen. Overdosing can cause dangerous, even deadly, liver damage, and consumers aren't always reading the fine print.

Bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol will soon have a new warning on their caps: "Contains acetaminophen. Always read the label."

The bright red lettering is an effort by Tylenol's parent company, Johnson & Johnson, to reduce the number of accidental acetaminophen overdoses that occur each year.

"Acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common poisonings worldwide," according to the National Institutes of Health.

Taking too much of this pain reliever can cause severe liver damage. The Food and Drug Administration sets the maximum limit for adults at 4,000 milligrams per day. One gel tablet of Extra Strength Tylenol contains 500 mg.

People should keep their doctor and pharmacist informed about all the medications they are taking to ensure that they are not consuming more than the daily limit, according to the FDA. They should also avoid taking acetaminophen with alcohol.

Consumer advocates say many people don't read labels, and that the public would be better served if the FDA forced acetaminophen manufacturers to lower the dosage. Former FDA Advisor, Dr. Sidney Wolfe said that the FDA has all the legal authority it needs to lower the dose, and "It's inexcusable that they haven't done it."

The FDA said that new rules on acetaminophen are "in the works."

"With more than 600 (over the counter) and prescription medications containing acetaminophen on the market, this is an important step because it will help remind consumers to always read the label," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement about the new caps, which will arrive in October.

The new packaging comes amid lawsuits including injuries, even death, in cases where patients followed label instructions.

[Editor's Note: Information obtained from linked sources, and information contained in the Associated Press video.]

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