Combining Tylenol and even
light consumption of alcohol can more than double someone's risk of kidney
disease, researchers say.
Taking the recommended dose
of Tylenol, also known by its generic name acetaminophen, combined with a small
to moderate amount of alcohol produces a 123% increased risk of kidney
disease, according to a new preliminary study.
"Most people take this
medication without any input from pharmacists or physicians and that's where
the public-health concern is," said lead researcher Harrison Ndetan, an
associate professor for research and biostatistics at Parker University in
"People buy acetaminophen over the counter, and they also are
casual alcohol users, and they don't know that there is a harmful
The study, scheduled for
presentation at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting
in Boston, establishes only an association between an acetaminophen-and-alcohol
combination and increased risk for kidney disease, not a direct
Chronic acetaminophen use
and chronic alcohol abuse both have been separately linked to kidney and liver
disease, said Dr Martin Zand, medical director of the kidney and pancreas
transplant programmes at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York.
"What has not been
well-studied until now is the link between some regular alcohol use and regular
acetaminophen use and increasing your risk of kidney disease above the risk of
either of those used separately," said Zand.
For the study, researchers
analysed data from more than 10 000 people who participated in the 2003-04 US
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It included questions about
alcohol consumption, use of acetaminophen and health problems.
The study found that
neither normal use of acetaminophen nor light to moderate drinking posed a
potential threat to kidneys.
Nearly half of the people
who combined the two, however, reported health problems related to their
kidneys, the researchers said. Specifically, of the 2.6% who took the
combination, 1.2% reported kidney dysfunction.
Alcohol can interfere with
the gene that regulates the way the body processes acetaminophen, Ndetan said,
adding that this is the most likely potential explanation for the association
found in the study.
The warning label included
on acetaminophen packaging does say not to take the medication with alcohol,
Ndetan said, "but it is important for people to receive this message
because people will take them despite those warnings."
It's not known if similar
interactions occur with other painkillers, he said.
In general, people who
regularly consume one should not use the other, Zand said.
If you take acetaminophen
daily for chronic pain, you should avoid alcohol, he said. If you drink alcohol
regularly, you should try another painkiller or avoid over-the-counter pain
"I'm not suggesting
people should not use acetaminophen and should not appropriately and modestly
consume alcohol, but it's not a good idea to take
acetaminophen for a number of days in a row and then drink alcohol," said Zand.
"If you do need to
take something for pain and if you are not a regular drinker, it would seem to
be OK to take some acetaminophen for it," Zand said.
kidneys are fine, you might want to choose another painkiller if you want to
err on the side of caution, because you've just put your liver through a stress
test and it needs all the breathing room it can get to recover."
Research presented at
meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
For more information on
acetaminophen toxicity, visit the US Food and Drug Administration.