A federal advisory panel voted narrowly on Tuesday to recommend a ban on Percocet and Vicodin, two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world, because of their effects on the liver.
The two drugs combine a narcotic with acetaminophen, the ingredient found in popular over-the-counter products like Tylenol and Excedrin. High doses of acetaminophen are a leading cause of liver damage, and the panel noted that patients who take Percocet and Vicodin for long periods often need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect, The New York Times reports.
The advisers' vote followed the release of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report last month. It found that severe liver damage and even death can result from a lack of consumer awareness that acetaminophen -- which is easier on the stomach than painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen -- can cause such injury.
Also, many people may take more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen-based, over-the-counter pain relievers in the mistaken belief that taking more will be more effective against pain without posing health risks. And consumers may not know that acetaminophen is present in many over-the-counter products, including remedies for colds, headaches and fevers, making it possible to exceed the recommended acetaminophen dose, the report said, TIME reports.
It’s worth noting that Vicodin, sold by Abbott Laboratories, and its generic equivalents are the most popular drug in the U.S., with 124 million prescriptions last year, according to IMS Health Inc., the data research company, Bloomberg reports.