Stupidity is the Leading Cause of Liver Failure

Ars Technica posted an article titled Tylenol is the leading cause of liver failure linking to a New Scientist article titled 'Safe' painkiller is leading cause of liver failure. I found it via Digg. On both Digg and Ars Technica, the comments were predominantly supporting the article and saying how horrible acetaminophen/paracetamol supposedly is.

Both the original article and the Ars Technica article referencing it are factually correct, but in my opinion the titles of each article are quite misleading. It is specifically overdose of this medication that is the leading cause of liver failure, and fully half of the cases are attempted suicides, making the word "leading" quite misleading. This is important because it means the people with the failing livers failed to follow both the labelling on the medication and generally accepted wisdom about dosage. Thus, they are responsible for their own conditions. End of story as far as I'm concerned.

But the story is far from over for New Scientist and Ars Technica, who seem to believe that "someone" has to do "something" to "protect" these people from their own choices. Maybe while we're at it we should "protect" people from such seriously alarmist and disingenuous reporting. Apparently people's preference for Extra Strength Tylenol is in fact wrong and they should be forced to get their medication in blister packs of small approved doses. I guess the fact that people have to take sixty pills in three days in order to poison themselves isn't good enough. They should have to take 120 and get them one at a time out of small blister packs!

Yet another reason to get rid of the FDA or at least seriously limit its power: it makes bad science reporting like this much more harmful.

Update: Rian (the Ars Technica writer) corrected me that in fact he does not believe government intervention is necessary, and he says in the article that he thinks that mandated blister packs would not be useful. I did in fact read that in his post before reading the New Scientist article, but the article title along with the New Scientist article and the Digg comments made me forget what he said in the last part of his article. Therefore my only beef with Rian's article is the headline and the fact that he fails to point out that it's intentional and unintentional overdose that's causing liver failure. I apologize, Rian, for misrepresenting your view. (I would have posted this update earlier, but I've been in Japan.)

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We are facing an epidemic of

We are facing an epidemic of fatal acetaminophen-associated poisonings
Tylenol deaths were 76 in 1995 and were 141 in 1999 according to data collected by the American Association of Poison Control Centers through its Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS).
By 2004 reports indicate 458 deaths. Projecting these 5 years into the future indicates that we will have at least 1832 deaths a year by 2010, making Tylenol worse than the Iraqi war or Hurricane Katrina. Since pit bulls cause an average of 4 deaths /year Tylenol will soon be 448 times more deadly than these vicious dogs which many communities have decided to outlaw. Clearly this is a crisis which requires government intervention. Of course big pharma which lines its pockets selling these deadly drugs would never permit it.
Ref:
www.essentialdrugs.org/ edrug/archive/200209/msg00032.php

www.jacobgrier.com/blog/archives/category/biology/

But the story is far from

But the story is far from over for New Scientist and Ars Technica, who seem to believe that “someone” has to do “something” to “protect” these people from their own choices. Maybe while we’re at it we should “protect” people from such seriously alarmist and disingenuous reporting. Apparently people’s preference for Extra Strength Tylenol is in fact wrong and they should be forced to get their medication in blister packs of small approved doses. I guess the fact that people have to take sixty pills in three days in order to poison themselves isn’t good enough. They should have to take 120 and get them one at a time out of small blister packs!

I'd prefer you not read more into what I think than what I've actually written. What you think of my position does not line up with what I actually think, as you can see from my other writings about things like Sudafed.

I think people should make their own decisions, and I think legislation to "protect" the public is, by and large, ineffective and ridiculous.

The beauty of this

The beauty of this blogosphere thing as opposed to one-way publications like New Scientist is precisely that we can call one another on our mistakes. I only mentioned your article at all because a) it was the one that was digged, and b) its title was just as bad.