[Posted 08/01/2013] ISSUE: FDA notified healthcare professionals and patients that acetaminophen has been associated with a risk of rare but serious skin reactions. Acetaminophen is a common active ingredient to treat pain and reduce fever; it is included in many prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) products. These skin reactions, known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), and acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP), can be fatal. These reactions can occur with first-time use of acetaminophen or at any time while it is being taken. Other drugs used to treat fever and pain/body aches (e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and naproxen) also carry the risk of causing serious skin reactions, which is already described in the warnings section of their drug labels.
BACKGROUND: This new information resulted from the Agency's review of the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database and the medical literature to evaluate cases of serious skin reactions associated with acetaminophen (see Data Summary at link below). It is difficult to determine how frequently serious skin reactions occur with acetaminophen, due to the widespread use of the drug, differences in usage among individuals (e.g., occasional vs. long-term use), and the long period of time that the drug has been on the market; however it is likely that these events (i.e., SJS, TEN, and AGEP) occur rarely.
RECOMMENDATION: Health care professionals should be aware of this rare risk and consider acetaminophen, along with other drugs already known to have such an association, when assessing patients with potentially drug-induced skin reactions. Any patient who develops a skin rash or reaction while using acetaminophen or any other pain reliever/fever reducer should stop the drug and seek medical attention right away. Anyone who has experienced a serious skin reaction with acetaminophen should not take the drug again and should contact their health care professional to discuss alternative pain relievers/fever reducers.
FDA will require that a warning be added to the labels of prescription drug products containing acetaminophen to address the risk of serious skin reactions. FDA will also request that manufacturers add a warning about serious skin reactions to the product labels of OTC acetaminophen drug products marketed under a new drug application and will encourage manufacturers of drug products marketed under the OTC monograph do the same.
For more information visit the FDA website at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation and http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety.
Infants' Acetaminophen Product Changes
Children's acetaminophen has been available as concentrated infant drops (containing 80 mg of acetaminophen per 0.8 mL of drops or 80 mg of acetaminophen per 1 mL of drops) and as a less concentrated liquid (containing 160 mg acetaminophen per 5 mL of liquid) for older children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of children who were given too much acetaminophen when their caregivers mistakenly used a more concentrated product in place of a less concentrated product. To prevent this type of mistake, the concentrated infant drops will no longer be manufactured for sale in the U.S. Instead, all liquid acetaminophen products for children under 12 years of age will contain 160 mg of acetaminophen in 5 mL of medication.
Although the more concentrated products are no longer being manufactured, they may still be available in stores for some time, and you may already have these products in your home. You may continue to buy and to give your child the concentrated products, but you will need to be especially careful to follow directions so that you give your child the right amount of medication.
Before you give your child acetaminophen, check the active ingredient section in the Drug Facts label on the package to see whether the medication is an older concentrated product containing 80 mg per 0.8 mL or a newer product containing 160 mg per 5 mL. Do not assume that a product with the word ''new'' on the package contains the new concentration because the word ''new'' may also appear on older products. Read the directions on each product label carefully and give only the amount of medication listed in the instructions on that package to your child. Do not just give your child the same amount of medication that you have given in the past, follow instructions that you have read on a different package in the past, or rely on dosing instructions from the Internet, old dosing charts, or family members. If your child's doctor prescribes acetaminophen for your child, be sure that he or she knows which product you will be using so that he or she can prescribe the correct dose.
If you have an older concentrated product, it will probably come with a dropper, and if you have a newer product, it may come with an oral syringe. Only measure your child's medication with the device included in that package . Do not switch measuring devices between the old and new acetaminophen liquid products.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about these acetaminophen product changes.
Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage, sometimes serious enough to require liver transplantation or cause death. You might accidentally take too much acetaminophen if you do not follow the directions on the prescription or package label carefully, or if you take more than one product that contains acetaminophen.
not take more than one product that contains acetaminophen at a time. Read the labels of all the prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking to see if they contain acetaminophen. Be aware that abbreviations such as APAP, AC, Acetaminophn, Acetaminoph, Acetaminop, Acetamin, or Acetam. may be written on the label in place of the word acetaminophen. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you don't know if a medication that you are taking contains acetaminophen.
take acetaminophen exactly as directed on the prescription or package label. Do not take more acetaminophen or take it more often than directed, even if you still have fever or pain. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you do not know how much medication to take or how often to take your medication. Call your doctor if you still have pain or fever after taking your medication as directed.
be aware that you should not take more than 4000 mg of acetaminophen per day. If you need to take more than one product that contains acetaminophen, it may be difficult for you to calculate the total amount of acetaminophen you are taking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you.
tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver disease.
not take acetaminophen if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks every day. Talk to your doctor about the safe use of alcohol while you are taking acetaminophen.
stop taking your medication and call your doctor right away if you think you have taken too much acetaminophen, even if you feel well.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about the safe use of acetaminophen or acetaminophen-containing products.
Acetaminophen is used to relieve mild to moderate pain from headaches, muscle aches, menstrual periods, colds and sore throats, toothaches, backaches, and reactions to vaccinations (shots), and to reduce fever. Acetaminophen may also be used to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis (arthritis caused by the breakdown of the lining of the joints). Acetaminophen is in a class of medications called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). It works by changing the way the body senses pain and by cooling the body.
Acetaminophen comes as a tablet, chewable tablet, capsule, suspension or solution (liquid), drops (concentrated liquid; removed from U.S. market), extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and orally disintegrating tablet (tablet that dissolves quickly in the mouth), to take by mouth, with or without food. Acetaminophen also comes as a suppository to use rectally. Acetaminophen is available without a prescription, but your doctor may prescribe acetaminophen to treat certain conditions. Follow the directions on the package or prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.
If you are giving acetaminophen to your child, read the package label carefully to make sure that it is the right product for the age of the child. Do not give children acetaminophen products that are made for adults. Some products for adults and older children may contain too much acetaminophen for a younger child. Check the package label to find out how much medication the child needs. If you know how much your child weighs, give the dose that matches that weight on the chart. If you don't know your child's weight, give the dose that matches your child's age. Ask your child's doctor if you don't know how much medication to give your child.
Acetaminophen comes in combination with other medications to treat cough and cold symptoms. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on which product is best for your symptoms. Check nonprescription cough and cold product labels carefully before using two or more products at the same time. These products may contain the same active ingredient(s) and taking them together could cause you to receive an overdose. This is especially important if you will be giving cough and cold medications to a child.
Swallow the extended-release tablets whole; do not split, chew, crush, or dissolve them.
Place the orally disintegrating tablet ('Meltaways') in your mouth and allow to dissolve or chew it before swallowing.
Shake the suspension well before each use to mix the medication evenly. Always use the measuring cup or syringe provided by the manufacturer to measure each dose of the solution or suspension. Do not switch dosing devices between different products; always use the device that comes in the product packaging.
Remove the wrapper.
Dip the tip of the suppository in water.
Lie down on your left side and raise your right knee to your chest. (A left-handed person should lie on the right side and raise the left knee.)
Using your finger, insert the suppository into the rectum, about 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 centimeters) in infants and children and 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in adults. Hold it in place for a few moments.
Stand up after about 15 minutes. Wash your hands thoroughly and resume your normal activities.
Stop taking acetaminophen and call your doctor if your symptoms get worse, you develop new or unexpected symptoms, including redness or swelling, your pain lasts for more than 10 days, or your fever gets worse or lasts more than 3 days. Also stop giving acetaminophen to your child and call your child's doctor if your child develops new symptoms, including redness or swelling, or your child's pain lasts for longer than 5 days, or fever get worse or lasts longer than 3 days.
Do not give acetaminophen to a child who has a sore throat that is severe or does not go away, or that occurs along with fever, headache, rash, nausea, or vomiting. Call the child's doctor right away, because these symptoms may be signs of a more serious condition.
Acetaminophen may also be used in combination with aspirin and caffeine to relieve the pain associated with migraine headache.
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
This medication is usually taken as needed. If your doctor has told you to take acetaminophen regularly, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
Acetaminophen may cause side effects.
swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
difficulty breathing or swallowing
Acetaminophen may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
loss of appetite
unusual bleeding or bruising
pain in the upper right part of the stomach
yellowing of the skin or eyes
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking acetaminophen.
Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about acetaminophen.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
§ These products are not currently approved by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, and quality. Federal law generally requires that prescription drugs in the U.S. be shown to be both safe and effective prior to marketing. Please see the FDA website for more information on unapproved drugs (http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm213030.htm) and the approval process (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm054420.htm).
Last Revised - 08/15/2013
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, 2013. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.