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J Patient Saf. 2010 Dec;6(4):216-20.

Survey of physician knowledge and counseling practices regarding acetaminophen.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy Practice, Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn, Alabama, USA.



To assess physician knowledge regarding acetaminophen dosing, toxicity, and recognition of acetaminophen-containing products and counseling practices when prescribing acetaminophen-containing medications.


Resident and faculty physicians at 1 internal medicine and 2 family medicine residency programs in Alabama were asked to participate in a voluntary survey. Participants completed a 7-item self-administered questionnaire. Questions were designed to assess physician knowledge of acetaminophen dosing and toxicity, recognition of prescription and over-the-counter products containing acetaminophen, and education provided to patients when prescribing acetaminophen-containing products. Questions were formatted as multiple choice, yes/no, true/false, and short answer. Certain items contained an answer choice of "unsure."


Of the 76 physicians who completed the survey, only 76% were aware of the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen. Although 93% recognized Lortab and 90% Percocet as acetaminophen-containing products, only 83% identified Lorcet and 75% Darvocet. More than 90% of physicians correctly identified nonacetaminophen prescription medications with the exception of OxyContin (84%) and Ultram (79%). Knowledge of over-the-counter products was generally less accurate. Ninety-eight percent recognized hepatotoxicity as the primary toxicity. Although 72% of physicians stated they provide specific instructions to patients when prescribing acetaminophen-containing medications, the information provided was limited.


Many physicians are unaware of acetaminophen dosing and toxicity issues and have some difficulty identifying acetaminophen-containing products. Information provided by physicians when prescribing acetaminophen products was limited. How this may contribute to unintentional acetaminophen overdose is unclear but should raise concern. These results reinforce the importance of public awareness, patient counseling, and physician education regarding acetaminophen toxicity issues.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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