Due to their effects on the liver, a federal advisory panel recommended a ban on the painkillers Percocet and Vicodin. These drugs are two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world. Vicodin and Percocet combine a narcotic with acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a painkiller and fever reducer, and is the the ingredient in products such as Tylenol and Excedrin, which are very popular. High doses of acetaminophen are a leading cause of liver damage. Other prescription drugs that combine different narcotics with acetaminophen will also be affected by the recommended ban if the FDA accepts the expert panel’s advice. Usually the FDA follows the recommendations of its expert panels, though it is not required to do so.
Acetaminophen is an effective treatment for headaches and fevers, but some people suffer overdoses even at the recommended doses. Over 400 people die from overdoses in the US each year. To address the issue of overdosing, the advisory panel voted to reduce the maximum level of acetaminophen allowed in over-the-counter pills, and also to reduce the maximum daily dosage.
Acetaminophen is also found in children’s over-the-counter medicines, which the panel voted to limit to a single formulation. The FDA will likely choose the less concentrated formula, to reduce the potential for harmful effects if a parent makes a dosing mistake. The panel voted against a ban on over-the-counter combination cough and cold products such as Nyquil, after determining that the combination products were not a large contributor to overall poisoning.