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News You Can Use: sleep aids, acetaminophen warning, head and neck cancer care

Sept. 6, 2013
In the latest installment of News You Can Use, Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, talks about prescription sleep aids, a warning about acetaminophen use, and a recent study that shows wide variation in head and neck cancer care.
Sleep Aids Key findings on Prescription Sleep Aid Use Among Adults: United States, 2005–2010. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2010 are as follows:(1) • About 4% of U.S. adults aged 20 and over used prescription sleep aids in the past month. • The percentage of adults using a prescription sleep aid increased with age and education. More adult women (5.0%) used prescription sleep aids than adult men (3.1%). • Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to use sleep aids (4.7%) than non-Hispanic black (2.5%) and Mexican-American (2.0%) adults. • Prescription sleep aid use varied by sleep duration and was highest among adults who sleep less than 5 hours (6.0%) or sleep 9 or more hours (5.3%). • One in six adults with a diagnosed sleep disorder and one in eight adults with trouble sleeping reported using sleep aids.
New Tylenol Bottle Cap Johnson & Johnson is introducing a new cap to curb Tylenol overdoses.(2) The product image provided by Johnson & Johnson shows a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol bearing a new warning label on the cap warning users to potentially fatal risks of taking too much of the product. Johnson & Johnson, the company that makes Tylenol, says the warning will appear on the cap of new bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol sold in the U.S. starting in October 2013 and on most other Tylenol bottles in coming months. It reads: “Contains Acetaminophen Always Read the Label.” The warning will make it unequivocally clear that the over-the-counter (OTC) drug contains acetaminophen, a pain-relieving ingredient that is the nation's leading cause of sudden liver failure.

Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States for treating pain and fever.(3) In 2005, consumers purchased more than 28 billion doses of products containing acetaminophen, and the hydrocodone–acetaminophen combination product has been the most frequently prescribed drug since 1997.(4)

"Acetaminophen is the generic name of a drug found in many common brand-name over-the-counter (OTC) products (e.g.,Tylenol, Excedrin) and prescription (Rx) products (e.g., Vicodin and Percocet). Acetaminophen is an important drug, and its effectiveness in relieving pain and fever is widely known. Unlike other drugs commonly used to reduce pain and fever (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), at recommended doses, acetaminophen does not cause stomach discomfort or bleeding. To date, the agency has considered acetaminophen safe when used according to the directions on its OTC and Rx labeling. Taking more than the recommended dose of 4 grams a day, however, can cause liver damage, ranging from abnormalities in blood tests used to assess liver function to acute liver failure (ALF), and even death. Many cases of acetaminophen overdose are caused by consumers inadvertently taking more than the recommended dose.” (4)

To see the cap and a short video about the need for the warning, visit the website.(5) For a pamphlet on Understanding Acetaminophen,(6) visit the website.

Cancer News: Study shows wide variation in head and neck cancer care Just three in every 100 head and neck cancer patients in England receive the ideal standard of care, according to a new study. The National Head and Neck Cancer Audit found wide variations in care, with just 3.1 per cent of patients receiving every element of care deemed important by experts. The figures also show there has been an improvement in survival rates among head and neck cancer patients over the last two years, despite variations in care.(7) The Ideal Patient Pathway contains seven elements of "holistic and integrated care" such as nutritional, speech and language, and dental assessments and chest scans or X-rays before surgery.(8) It also involves people's disease being discussed by a multi-disciplinary team including specialist surgeons, oncologists, speech therapists, and nursing staff. Researchers examined data submitted by all head and neck cancer teams in England and Wales, relating to the care of 8,100 patients between November 2011 and October 2012.(7) They found that the largest group of patients (24.7 per cent) received three elements of the Ideal Patient Pathway, with some aspects delivered more consistently than others.(8) For example, 96.4 per cent of surgical head and neck cancer patients had their case discussed by a multi-disciplinary team, but just 18.8 per cent had an assessment with a speech and language therapist before surgery. The findings are published in the National Head and Neck Cancer Audit Eighth Annual Report 2012, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership. According to the data, there has been an improvement in survival rates among head and neck cancer patients over the last two years. The figures show that the number of patients who survived a year from their diagnosis rose from 84.4 per cent in 2010 to 87.5 per cent in 2012.References 1. Chong Y, Fryar CD, and Gu Q. Prescription Sleep Aid Use Among Adults: United States, 2005–2010. NCHS Data Brief, No. 127, August 2013. 2. Matthew Perrone of The Associated Press. Johnson & Johnson launches new cap to curb Tylenol overdoses. Friday, August 30, 2013 - 8:10 am. 3. Kaufman DW, Kelly JP, Rosenberg L, Anderson TE, Mitchell AA. Recent patterns of medication use in the ambulatory adult population of the United States: the Slone survey. JAMA, 2002 Jan 16; 287(3) 337-44. See also 4. FDA. Acetaminophen Overdose and Liver Injury — Background and Options for Reducing Injury. 5. 6. 7. The 8th Annual Report for the National Head & Neck Cancer Audit will be published on the 26th July 2013. 8.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, click here.

To read more about acetaminophen and dental hygiene, click here.