When Johnson & Johnson announced plans last week to lower the maximum dose for Extra Strength Tylenol, the news made some people rethink how often they take the drug and other over-the-counter medicines.
In an effort to reduce the risk of liver damage resulting from overuse of acetaminophen — the active ingredient in Tylenol — the drugmaker's McNeil division will soon cap the product's daily dose recommendation at 3,000 milligrams (a total of six 500-milligram pills a day) instead of the current 4,000 (eight pills a day.
Acetaminophen (Extra Strength Tylenol). For headaches, joint and muscle pain, fever.
Overuse risks: Liver damage or failure. May cause liver problems at lower doses in alcohol users, or in those who take other drugs containing acetaminophen.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Reduces pain and swelling related to arthritis. Relieves headache, fever, menstrual cramps.
Overuse risks: Gastrointestinal pain, bleeding. Kidney damage.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), antihistamine used to prevent, reduce hayfever and other allergy symptoms.
Overuse risks: Memory loss and disorientation, especially in elderly. Drowsiness, dryness.
Loratadine (Claritin), antihistimine used to relieve hayfever, other allergy symptoms.
Overuse risks: Sleepiness, fast heart rate. May lose effectiveness over time. Claritin-D includes an additional active ingredient, pseudoephedrine sulfate, which may cause insomnia or restlessness. Pseudoephedrine should not to be taken with certain medications for Parkinsons, depression, psychiatric or other emotional conditions.
Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, and Doxylamine succinate, an antihistamine (NyQuil Cough).
Overuse risks: Can cause drowsiness, especially when mixed with sleeping medications and alcohol. Not to be taken with certain medications for Parkinsons, depression, psychiatric or other emotional conditions.
Ranitidine (Zantac), an acid reducer, treats ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Overuse risks: May lose effectiveness over time. Long-term acid suppressor use could lead to poor absorption of some forms of calcium.
Sources: Brian Strom, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; Winston Parris, Duke University Medical Center; Lisa McDevitt, Tufts Medical Center; Sarah Anderson, University of Colorado School of Pharmacy; Ausim Azizi, Temple University School of Medicine.