Consumers’ Knowledge of Acetaminophen Safe Use at All-time High

New research shows more Americans than ever know the risk of taking too much

Washington, D.C.(March 2, 2017) – A growing number of Americans know how to safely use medicines containing the most common drug ingredient in the U.S.

A nationwide survey conducted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Educational Foundation released today shows a positive trend over the past six years: more people than ever are aware of how to use products containing acetaminophen safely and effectively, while avoiding the risks of accidental overdose and liver damage. 

 Findings include:

More consumers agree it is “important not to exceed the dosing directions on the label” of pain relievers (increased to 96 percent in 2016 from 90 percent in 2010).

More consumers understand that “exceeding the recommended daily dose of acetaminophen may lead to liver damage” (increased to 90 percent in 2016 from 78 percent in 2010).

See Infographic here.

“As cold and flu season is peaking, it is important to remember that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, not viruses like colds and the flu,” said Dr. Dan Budnitz, Director of the Medication Safety Program for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who is not affiliated with the CHPA study. “Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines with acetaminophen are one way to treat these symptoms, but be sure to read the labels completely, follow the dosing directions carefully, and talk to your healthcare provider if your symptoms are severe or getting worse.” 

Educational efforts from healthcare providers, patient organizations, manufacturers, and government agencies have all played a part in this trend in awareness. CHPA Educational Foundation is a founding member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, which established the Know Your Dose campaign in 2011 to educate consumers on how to safely use medicines that contain acetaminophen. Other acetaminophen safe use and medicine safety  programs launched in the past few years include FDA’s Safe Use Initiative, Johnson & Johnson’s Get Relief Responsibly, National Consumers League’s Life Smarts, and National Council on Patient Information and Education’s MUST for Seniors

In addition to supporting and carrying out educational efforts, manufacturers of OTC medicines have made changes to medicine packaging to prominently display acetaminophen on products and labels. Manufacturers have also standardized the concentration of acetaminophen in liquid medicines for infants and children and included age-appropriate dosing devices with standardized markings to make it easier for parents to give medicine and to reduce pediatric acetaminophen dosing errors.

“Improving packaging and standardizing the concentration of acetaminophen in these medications have been important steps in equipping consumers to safely treat their symptoms,” said Budnitz.

This 2016 research marks the third time CHPA Educational Foundation has surveyed consumers about acetaminophen safe use and risk awareness since 2010 to guide future educational initiatives. 



Survey Methodology 

 David Binder Research conducted this survey for CHPA Educational Foundation by collecting data in October 2016 using an online survey among 1,000 U.S. consumers who had taken OTC pain medicine in the last 6 months and/or Rx pain medicine in the last 12 months. Margin of error is ± 3.1 percent.

CHPA Educational Foundation is dedicated to being the trusted source of information on the responsible use, storage, and disposal of consumer healthcare products including OTC medicines and dietary supplements. The foundation is the education arm of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.