Estimates of acetaminophen (Paracetomal)-associated overdoses in the United States

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2006 Jun;15(6):398-405. doi: 10.1002/pds.1191.


Objective: To estimate the number of acetaminophen-associated overdoses in the United States and identify possible risk factors for intervention.

Methods: The investigators obtained estimates of acetaminophen-associated overdoses using different national databases. Two emergency room databases, a hospital discharge database, a national mortality file, and a poison surveillance database were used to identify cases. The FDA's spontaneous reporting system was searched to identify possible root causes for overdoses.

Results: Analysis of national databases show that acetaminophen-associated overdoses account for about 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations yearly. Analysis of national mortality files shows 458 deaths occur each year from acetaminophen-associated overdoses; 100 of these are unintentional. The poison surveillance database showed near-doubling in the number of fatalities associated with acetaminophen from 98 in 1997 to 173 in 2001. AERS data describe a number of possible causes for unintentional acetaminophen-associated overdoses.

Conclusions: Each year a substantial numbers of Americans experience intentional and unintentional acetaminophen-associated overdoses that, in severe cases, lead to serious illness and possible death. This summary of a series of analyses highlights the need for strategies to reduce this public health burden.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / poisoning*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Overdose
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poison Control Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Acetaminophen