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Response to media coverage about Paracetamol - 20 June 2014
Paracetamol is the most frequently used analgesic for the relief of pain in people with arthritis. Taken in advised doses paracetamol is a relatively safe medication.
However recent studies highlight that - despite common perceptions paracetamol has little or no side effects - taken in excess there is a real concern for toxicity especially affecting the liver (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/paracetamol-the-most-common-household-medicine-is-poisoning-150-australians-a-week/story-fneuzlbd-1226960271551). These concerns echo similar concerns raised by the main regulatory body in the US, the Food and Drug Authority(FDA), who have recommended a maximal daily dose of 3.2 gm as opposed to the 4 gm commonly recommended.
Part of the challenge is that paracetamol is frequently in cold and flu remedies that people may take in addition to their regular analgesia and, therefore, accidental over-dosage is not unusual.
These concerns over the toxicity have been compounded by studies of paracetamol that suggest modest efficacy in the relief of pain and to the extent that it is no longer recommended as first line medication management for the relief of osteoarthritis pain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24462672).
There are many other options for the management of osteoarthritis pain; details are available on www.myjointpain.org.au or The Arthritis Infoline 1800 011 041
Reviewed and updated June 2014