Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Heed Warnings on Popular Pain Relievers, Studies Urge

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Heed Warnings on Popular Pain Relievers, Studies Urge

Article excerpt

PERSUADING PEOPLE to avoid overusing Tylenol and other brands of acetaminophen could reduce the cases of kidney failure in this country by 10 percent and cut medical bills by $700 million a year, a study concludes.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is one of two published last week to link the popular pain medicine with rare but serious side effects.

The study found that people who average a pill a day over the course of a year face double the usual risk of kidney failure, a devastating condition that requires frequent dialysis treatment.

Another report in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that in rare instances moderate overdoses can cause severe liver damage if taken on an empty stomach.

Experts say taking Tylenol and similar drugs occasionally for headaches and other ills is safe. But they caution that the reports underscore the need to take medicines - even over the counter drugs - only when necessary.

About 50,000 new cases of kidney failure are diagnosed in the United States annually, and about 190,000 people are being treated for the condition. The new report estimates that about 10 percent of cases - 5,000 a year - are caused by acetaminophen.

Last year, acetaminophen accounted for 48 percent of the nation's $2.9 billion over-the-counter pain reliever sales, according to Kline & Co., a consulting firm. Tylenol made up about 70 percent of acetaminophen sales.

The latest study was based on a survey of 716 people on kidney dialysis. Interviewers compared their pill-taking histories with those of 361 healthy people.

Among the findings:

The risk of kidney failure increased about 40 percent in those who took acetaminophen between twice a week and once a day for at least a year, compared with those who used the drug less often.

The risk was double in people who used the pain reliever an average of once or more a day for at least a year.

Aspirin does not appear to harm the kidneys.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also were linked with kidney damage, although the relationship was less clear than with acetaminophen. …

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