Hospitalized patients who receive multiple orders of medication containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol or Percocet, are likely to receive a higher than intended dose of the drug, even when provided by physicians.
This is according to new research from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Reviewing 46,000 hospital admissions over a two-year period, investigators led by Jesse Civan, MD, GI fellow, division of gastroenterology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, found that about 1,100 individuals received more than 4 grams of acetaminophen on at least one day.
In other words, about 2.5 percent of all patients admitted to the hospital received more than what is currently considered the safe cumulative daily dose on at least one calendar day.
Read Dr. Leo Galland’s Why Medication Can Be Dangerous to Your Health
Investigators sought to determine exactly how much acetaminophen was being dispensed in a large tertiary-care hospital and how it compared to the generally accepted safe maximum dose.
They reviewed a computer database tracking every patient admitted to their hospital and every dose of medicine prescribed and received. This allowed them to calculate exactly how much medication patients were exposed to, including any medication containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, Percocet and other similar medicines, and to generate a list of all patients who received more than 4 grams of acetaminophen on at least one calendar day.
Acetaminophen has been under increasing scrutiny in the U.S. — it is the leading cause of acute liver failure and emergent liver transplant, and previous studies have suggested that unintentional overdose is a significant problem.
There has also been debate in the medical literature about whether a less severe form of acetaminophen-induced liver injury due to unintentional overdose may be important.
Read: Football and Painkillers
“Patterns of Usage of Acetaminophen in Excess of Four Grams Daily in a Hospitalized Population at a Tertiary Care Center” (Abstract #743) presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference by Dr. Civan on Monday, May 21, 2012 at the San Diego Convention Center