THURSDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials announced Thursday that they will lower the maximum amount of the pain reliever acetaminophen allowed in prescription opioid products such as Vicodin and Percocet because of reports of severe liver damage.
Over a period of three years, the upper threshold of acetaminophen in prescription drugs containing opioids such as codeine will be set at 325 milligrams per dose. Right now, such products can contain up to 750 milligrams of acetaminophen, Dr. Sandra Kweder, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said during a Thursday news conference.
The FDA will also be mandating that such prescription combination products include "black box" warnings on their labels alerting users to the potential for liver damage.
"We're taking a major step in the agency's overall strategy to reduce the risk of intentional and unintentional liver damage that can occur if a patient takes too much of the common painkiller acetaminophen," Kweder said. "[But] let me also be clear that, when taken as directed, acetaminophen is a very safe product. Our goal is to make it even safer."
Patients already taking such products should not stop taking them without consulting a health-care provider, she emphasized. "There is no immediate threat to patients, even at the higher dose," she said.
The new actions do not affect over-the-counter (OTC) products containing acetaminophen such as Tylenol and Nyquil, although Kweder said the agency is considering taking action in that area as well.
Right now, OTC products can contain up to 500 milligrams of the ingredient with a limit of four doses per 24-hour period. These products already carry warnings of possible liver damage on their labels.
Overdoses from these prescription combination prod
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