The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) welcomes Health Canada’s announcement to take further action to improve acetaminophen safety through a suite of measures, including a final revised labeling standard for non-prescription acetaminophen products, a limit on prescription acetaminophen combination products from containing more than 325mg of acetaminophen, and the creation of new educational products to promote patient safety.
CPhA has long called on the federal government to take additional steps to minimize the risk of liver damage through concrete measures to ensure that acetaminophen is taken appropriately and that patients do not exceed the maximum dose. As an active participant in Health Canada’s technical discussions, CPhA believes that the government’s announcement represents a balanced approach to reinforce the importance of using the lowest effective dose of acetaminophen, without driving patients to other products which may carry their own risks.
“Acetaminophen has for many years been the medication of choice for Canadians to relieve their pain,” said Phil Emberly, Director of Professional Affairs at CPhA and also a practising pharmacist. “For this reason, the task of protecting Canadians from potentially severe liver damage while at the same time protecting Canadians’ access to acetaminophen has been a difficult task for Health Canada. We support Health Canada’s approach and are confident that pharmacists will continue to provide counsel to Canadians on the safe and effective use of this medication.”
CPhA also notes that the government’s recent announcement makes it clear that it intends to introduce regulations to require a prescription for low-dose (8mg or less) codeine products, many of which also contain acetaminophen. CPhA believes that this measure is an important part of a comprehensive approach to improve acetaminophen safety and urges the government to act expeditiously in this area.
Despite these new measures, there continues to be a critical need for patient education and awareness about the appropriate use of acetaminophen products. Pharmacists, who are Canada’s most accessible healthcare professionals, will play a key role in explaining these changes to Canadians and will continue to counsel patients on safe and appropriate use. CPhA applauds Health Canada’s action to improve acetaminophen safety, and its members are committed to collaborative efforts to support patients in managing the impact of these changes going forward.