Acetaminophen (known by various names, including Tylenol and paracetamol) is a popular and effective over-the-counter pain reliever. But because it is often taken in amounts exceeding recommended doses it is also the leading cause of permanent liver damage in the U.S. Acetaminophen produces toxic byproducts that the liver must handle, and taken in excess it exceeds the liver's detoxing capacity.
Most people have been unaware of this danger, and may also unwittingly be overdosing by using other acetaminophen-containing over-the-counter remedies at the same time (any of scores of allergy, sinus, cold & cough medicines, for example) or prescription drugs (such as Vicodin and Percoset).
An FDA advisory panel recommends better warning labels and smaller recommended doses. But a new acetaminophen alternative may offer the best solution, say chemists at the University of New Orleans. Their experimental compound (SCP-123), which joins each molecule of acetaminophen with a molecule of saccharine, appears to help pain while avoiding production of toxic byproducts, according to a research team led by Mark L. Trudell. “At this point, we’re pretty much ready to go,” Trudell told reporters recently.*
* As reported in a technical article published July 17 in the journal Organic Process Research and Development, and in New Scientist (“No pain, no danger,” Jul 2009, pg. 6).