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If 2 Painkillers Are Banned, What Next?
Date:7/2/2009

Other options, available and in the pipeline, could plug a Percocet-Vicodin gap, experts say,,

THURSDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Banning the popular painkillers Percocet and Vicodin, which a U.S. health advisory panel has urged, would not be as drastic as it sounds, some medical experts contend.

The reason, they say, is that other options are available.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel made its recommendation Tuesday. It followed the release in May of an FDA report that found that many consumers aren't aware that severe liver damage, and even death, can result from overuse of acetaminophen, which is easier on the stomach than such painkillers as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Vicodin and Percocet combine acetaminophen with an opiate narcotic in one pill. Vicodin contains the narcotic hydrocodone, and Percocet contains oxycodone. Both drugs are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.

But acetaminophen is the active ingredient in such popular over-the-counter pain relievers as Tylenol and Excedrin. And consumers may also not know that acetaminophen is present in many other over-the-counter products, including remedies for colds, headaches and fevers, making it possible to exceed the recommended acetaminophen dose.

And that's what's prompting the FDA's concern.

"It really makes sense to do what the panel is suggesting," said Dr. Scott Fishman, chief of the pain medicine division and a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California, Davis, and president of the American Pain Foundation. "The key is that the public needs to understand that they [the FDA] are not voting to ban the drugs [contained in the pill: the opiate and acetaminophen]. The drugs are fine. It's the combination of the drugs in one pill. Each drug has its own problems but, used separately, can be used safely."

Narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone run the risk of bei
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