By Jennifer Yang and Robert Cribb
There is a drug — probably sitting in your purse, desk drawer or medicine cabinet — that is widely considered one of the world’s safest painkillers. But over the last decade, it has killed hundreds of Canadians, hospitalized tens of thousands and cost the health-care system tens of millions, a Toronto Star investigation has found.
Acetaminophen has spent more than half a century as one of Canada’s top-selling non-prescription drugs. It can be found in nearly 500 products and billions of doses are taken safely every year.
But few Canadians appreciate the potential dangers of acetaminophen — the ingredient that made Tylenol famous but can be found in everything from Nyquil and NeoCitran to prescription painkillers such as Percocet. This is a drug many consumers take as casually as M&Ms — both of which can be bought at any gas station or drugstore, sometimes in packages containing hundreds.