Acetaminophen: Gateway to Crack


Writing in Sunday's USA Today, Dr. Marc Siegel offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of offering "harmless" drugs over the counter; namely, the nation's raging Tylenol problem:

Perhaps the most abused over-the-counter drugs of all, Tylenol and aspirin, respectively cause thousands of cases of liver damage and bleeding ulcers every year, partly because a physician isn't involved in regulating their use. When these drugs first came on the market, the extent of their side effects wasn't known.

A campaign to restrict them now would fail, but their patterns of use—and abuse—can be telling when considering whether to make other drugs available over the counter.

Siegel is worked up over efforts to make cholesterol drugs and Plan B (the morning-after pill) available over the counter. As Ronald Bailey explains, the Plan B issue is moral, not medical, but the FDA is working overtime to keep the drug out of easy reach.