Common painkiller found to affect brain function and cause liver damage
(NaturalHealth365) Money not only talks, it apparently silences as well. Especially when the money in question is an industry boasting over a trillion dollars in sales. That kind of money-based power is apparently enough to keep the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at bay when it comes to the most profitable and popular painkiller on the market, despite stacks of evidence revealing its deadly side effects.
Even when recommended dosages are adhered to, consumers ranging from babies to the elderly are exposed to potentially deadly liver failure. Now, research suggests the painkiller acetaminophen, which is marketed under the brand name Tylenol and included in a number of multi-ingredient medications, could interfere with normal brain function and concentration as well.
Popular painkiller identified as potent liver toxin
Did you know that acetaminophen prompts more calls to poison control centers, at more than 100,000 per year, than most other medications? It is responsible for about 56,000 visits to the emergency room, about 26,000 hospitalizations and an astounding 450 deaths due to liver failure each year. In fact, acetaminophen causes more cases of acute liver failure than all other medications combined.
In fact, this painkiller is known as a dose-dependent liver toxin, and even at recommended doses, it can release small amounts of a toxic substance. Not unexpectedly, as the dosage increases, a much larger amount of toxin is released. Sadly, there is a very fine line between an acceptable – presumably safe – dosage and one that puts the individual in danger. The result is that even a dosage that is just slightly above the maximum recommendation of 4 g/day can cause devastating damage to the liver.
The effects of the toxin can be even more potent at times of fasting, particularly dangerous since an empty stomach is not uncommon during illness. In such cases, liver damage – even liver failure and death – can occur even when normal, recommended dosage levels are followed.
New study suggests impaired brain function among side effects of acetaminophen
The potential for acetaminophen to cause liver damage, liver failure and even death is not a new discovery. But now, more recent research suggests this over-the-counter medication may also impact brain function.
A University of Toronto study, in cooperation with researchers from the University of British Columbia, is the first neurological study to focus on how acetaminophen may inhibit brain response associated with making errors. Researchers explain that physical pain and the brain function used in evaluating responses can both be traced to the same area of the brain.
Researchers used a target-detection test that forced participants to move quickly in choosing the correct target on the screen from among two choices. Each participant was monitored for electrical activity of the brain and put into groups, some of which received a normal maximum dose of acetaminophen and some of which received a placebo. When participants make an error in the test, there is an expected increase in certain brain waves. However, those receiving the acetaminophen showed a smaller response in these brain waves.
While more study is indicated, if the association holds true, cognitive control could become more difficult when taking the painkiller. Researchers also found that participants receiving acetaminophen had a greater tendency to miss more of the correct stimuli in the test, suggesting the drug could cause people to become easily distracted as well.
Big pharma wields powerful influence over government and medical community
So, how can the FDA look the other direction when it comes to safety of drugs like acetaminophen? Big pharma is a major contributor to the FDA’s annual budget. It also flexes its muscle when it comes to influencing the entire healthcare system, including physicians and hospitals, as well as consumers.
The pharmaceutical industry also exhibits a staggering amount of influence on Capitol Hill, thanks to 1,100-plus paid lobbyists, according to law group The Peterson Firm, Washington, D.C. Between 1998 and 2014, the industry spent almost $2.9 billion on lobbying, more than any other industry. It also remains a heavy hitter when it comes to campaign contributions.
According to Thomson Reuters, the pharmaceutical industry enjoyed a milestone of hitting $1 trillion in global sales in 2014 and is forecasting a rise to $1.3 trillion in sales by 2018. The world’s 10 largest drug companies generated $429.4 billion in revenue alone. Five of the those top 10 are headquartered in the U.S., including Johnson & Johnson, maker of Tylenol.