Journalism in the Public Interest

Five Consumer Resources From Our Acetaminophen Investigation

Each year, acetaminophen overdose sends as many as 78,000 Americans to the emergency room. We’ve created five consumer resources to help you become more aware of the inherit risks of the pain reliever “hospitals use most.”


(Lars Klove for ProPublica)

Last week, ProPublica and This American Life published a blockbuster report revealing the inherent risks of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Each year, acetaminophen overdose sends as many as 78,000 Americans to the emergency room and 150 people die from accidentally overdosing on the pain reliever “hospitals use most.”

As part of our investigation, we created five consumer resources to help you become more aware of acetaminophen toxicity, which the FDA now calls a “persistent, important public health problem.”


1. Drug Lookup

Many common over-the-counter medicines contain acetaminophen, including Theraflu and Nyquil. This tool allows you to easily search for the drugs in your medicine cabinet and see just how much acetaminophen you’re taking.


2. Dose-o-Meter

Mixing Tylenol and other medications can quickly put you over the recommended daily dose, and in danger of damaging your liver. Select a group of medicines to see whether you’re still within a safe dosage of acetaminophen. 


3. Symptoms of Acetaminophen Poisoning

Overdosing on painkillers can begin with nausea and, in extreme cases, end in death. Use our chart to see the phases of acetaminophen poisoning and its impact on your body.


4. Discussion: Acetaminophen Risks, Safety Measures

Still have questions? Join our live discussion on our investigation this Thursday at 1 pm ET. Our reporter T. Christian Miller will be joined by liver disease specialist Dr. William Lee and pharmaceutical marketing expert PeterMax Miller, to discuss how the FDA and drug company McNeil fought or delayed measures to protect consumers. Weigh in to the chat on our site, or tweet your questions with the hashtag #AcetaChat.


5. Share Your Story

Have you or someone you know suffered from acetaminophen poisoning? Help continue our reporting, and share your story here. And to tell the FDA about your experience, you can fill out a consumer report form.

contact any poison center , they’ll tell you .

thanks for the report, but “inherit risk?” did you mean inherent?

Why make this look so complicated?
For adults who do not have liver disease, do NOT EVER take more than 3,000 mg daily.  It is best and safest to not exceed 2,000 mg daily
For kids it would go by weight.
Why not simply publish a chart showing maximum daily dosages, by child’s weight, per day.  If people know what their child weighs, and can perform simple arithmetic, this should suffice.

The inherit/inherent problem is bad, perhaps especially so because it’s in the opening sentence.

ProPublica, you’re better than this. Fix it.

Too bad you didn’t state what is the safe maximum dosage is. This article is useless with that simple fact.

Lowell Boardman

Oct. 22, 2013, 3:52 a.m.

Tylenol is often recommended for conditions resulting from inflammation. Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory. In Hospital Tylenol is routinely administered to elderly patients with a high risk of impaired liver and/or impaired kidney function. To start someone on Tylenol without baseline labs for liver and kidney function while failing to monitor kidney and liver function daily during Tylenol therapy is irresponsible. My father suffered from kidney failure for the last 20 years of his life. He was routinely given Tylenol despite Kidney failure. If we were to review the VA Hospital Histories of current Dialysis patients we would likely see substantial dosing with Tylenol prior to Kidney failure. While Kidney and Liver function might not have been optimal at first intake, Kidney and Liver function likely declined with each VA Hospitalization. Each VA stay would include Tylenol given throughout the stay. Tylenol would be the recommended pain killer on release. Now the question is what did the FDA, VA and McNeil know? When did they know it? What actions did they take based on that knowledge?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:


About 150 Americans a year die by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The toll does not have to be so high.

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