Term to Know
- another term for pain-relief medicines
Acetaminophen is the most common drug ingredient in America. More than 600 medicines contain acetaminophen. These include both prescription medicines and medicines available without a prescription, also called “over-the-counter,” or “OTC” medicines. To prevent acetaminophen overdose, you need to be able to read labels and recognize when their medicines contain acetaminophen. The active ingredients in OTC medicines are clearly listed on the label, and the word “acetaminophen,” is listed on the front of the package or bottle and in the Active Ingredient section of the Drug Facts label.
On prescription labels, acetaminophen is sometimes listed as “APAP,” “acetam,” or other shorted versions of the word. To know what is in your medicines, read the list of active ingredients on the label each and every time you take a medicine.
Study Reveals Lack of Knowledge about Acetaminophen
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2011) found that few Americans read the labels on OTC medicine or know about the ingredients in the medicines they take. Findings from this study suggested that consumer lack of awareness could be a reason why acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of liver failure in the United States.
In the study, researchers interviewed 45 people in six focus groups. Of these participants, only 31 percent knew that Tylenol contained acetaminophen, 19 percent were aware that Advil contained ibuprofen, and approximately the same number knew Aleve contained naproxen sodium. According to the study, about 75 percent of the participants knew that Bayer contained aspirin and 47 percent knew that Motrin contained ibuprofen.
Study results revealed that only 41 percent of focus group members said they read the ingredients label on their medicines.Source: Northwestern University News Center, May 2, 2011
Don’t forget to examine the medicines in your medicine cabinet, too. If the active ingredient acetaminophen is not already highlighted on the packaging or bottle of OTC medicines in your medicine cabinet, consider using a color marker to highlight “acetaminophen” on the label, so you can identify it easily.
You may be surprised to learn just which medicines contain this acetaminophen. Sample lists are provided here:
Common Over-the-Counter Brand Name Medicines Containing Acetaminophen
- Alka-Seltzer Plus LiquidGels®
- Formula 44®
- Powders Liquiprin®
- Saint Joseph®
- Aspirin-Free Singlet®
- TYLENOL® Brand Products
- *And store brands
Common Prescription Medicines Containing Acetaminophen
- Hydrocodone Bitartrate
- Tylenol® with Codeine
- *And generic medicines
[Source: Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition; www.KnowYourDose.org]
For a comprehensive list of OTC and prescription medicines that contain acetaminophen, visit: the National Library of Medicine’s web site: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a681004.html#brand-name-1