Tylenol a Cancer risk? California considers warning on common painkiller Acetaminophen

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Tylenol is one of the most widely used remedy for pain relief. However, an important ingredient of this medication, Acetaminophen, known more popularly as paracetamol, is in potential danger of being declared carcinogenic by the State of California.

This drug, Acetaminophen is not only used in Tylenol but many other narcotics such as Butalbital, Tapanol, Tylox, Ultracet, Vicodin, Zydone and many more. It is used to treat headache, muscle aches, arthritis, toothaches and fever. World Health Organization includes it on its list of essential medications.

In the past, attempts were made to characterize Acetaminophen as a cancer causing agent but both reviews of 1990 and 1999 did not list it as carcinogenic. Now again, it is under review for being cancer causing under the Proposition 65 law.

There is a law of the California state, known more formally as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The law basically states that chemicals that can cause cancer or harm to reproductive system must include a warning of their effect so that the general public is aware of it when they consumes the drug. All such drugs are included in a list maintained by the state. Currently, there are 1013 drugs on the list.

The Californian regulators have studied 133 studies reportedly, some of which relate Acetaminophen to different cancers such as liver and blood cancers. However, it was also concluded that it is difficult to isolate the compound from other harmful cancer causing agents such as smoking etc. So overall, whether paracetamol is carcinogenic or not, cannot be concluded with present data.

The owner of Tylenol, Johnson and Johnson, is against this claim and believes in the safeness of their product. Many experts have also stated that the review may end just like the past ones with the drug not being declared cancer causing. The most noted reasons for this claim are:

  • 1 > Lack of evidence. As pointed out earlier no study yet conducted has found a conclusive relation between cancer and Acetaminophen. It is only speculation.
  • 2 > The vast popularity of paracetamol as a drug. The medicine is used very commonly so if it declared carcinogenic based on such arguments then the backlash could be bad as the alternatives are not that good and have limited consumers such as some patients cannot use the other drugs.
  • 3 > Opioids are another alternative but that drug has caused enough catastrophe. The drug has caused many deaths due to overdose as well as birth defects in babies.

However,  the lawmakers of the state, known for their excessiveness so much so that California has the longest list of carcinogenic substances,  are of the opinion that there is enough to consider the enlisting of the substance in the Proposition law list. What the ultimate decision is, will be revealed in Spring of this year as that is when the trial is scheduled. Government appointed scientists will analyze the evidence and make the decision to include the drug or not. The decision undoubtedly,  will greatly impact the future of medicine and drugs.

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According to Web MD, acetaminophen is the most popular pain relief medicine in the U.S., and it’s considered safe and effective with proper use. The drug, also used to reduce fever, can be found in more than 600 prescription and over-the-counter medications.

But the FDA warns on its website that misuse of acetaminophen is dangerous and says that “taking more than the recommended amount can cause liver damage, ranging from abnormalities in liver function blood tests, to acute liver failure, and even death.’

Click Here to Read more on Acetaminophen for relieving Fibromyalgia pain

Reference: Tylenol a cancer risk? California considers warning on common painkiller acetaminophen by Jorge L. Ortiz via USA TODAY

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