Effect of Maximal Daily Doses of Acetaminophen on the Liver of Alcoholic Patients
Archives of Internal Medicine
Retrospective reports suggest that therapeutic doses of acetaminophen may be associated with fulminant hepatic failure and death in alcoholic patients. Millions of patients use acetaminophen; the prevalence of alcoholism in the United States is 5% to 10%. Objective: To determine if hepatic injury was associated with maximal therapeutic dosing of acetaminophen to chronic alcohol abuse patients immediately following cessation of alcohol intake (the presumed time of maximal vulnerability).
... erability). Methods: Patients entering an alcohol detoxification center were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled trial. Exclusion criteria were baseline values of aspartate or alanine aminotransferase greater than 120 U/L, international normalized ratio greater than 1.5, serum acetaminophen level greater than 20 mg/L, or a history of ingesting more than 4 g/d of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen, 1000 mg, or placebo was administered orally 4 times daily for 2 consecutive days and liver test results were monitored for 2 more days. Acetaminophen was not administered until the alcohol had been eliminated. Results: There were 102 patients in the acetaminophentreated group and 99 patients in the placebo-treated (control) group. Demographic data, alcohol history, and baseline blood test results were similar in both groups. The mean (SD) aspartate aminotransferase level on day 4 was 38.0 ± 26.7 U/L in the acetaminophentreated group and 37.5±27.6 U/L in the placebo-treated group. There were 4 patients in the acetaminophentreated group and 5 in the placebo-treated group who developed an increase in their serum aspartate aminotransferase level to greater than 120 U/L; it did not exceed 200 U/L in any patient. The mean (SD) international normalized ratio on day 4 was 0.96±0.09 in the acetaminophen-treated group and 0.98 ± 0.11 in the placebo-treated group. Conclusion: Repeated administration of the maximum recommended daily doses of acetaminophen to longterm alcoholic patients was not associated with evidence of liver injury.