Safe and Effective When Used as Directed

Acetaminophen (pronounced: a·seet·a·min·o·fen) is the most common active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines, including pain relievers, fever reducers, and sleep aids, as well as cough, cold, and allergy medicines. In fact, acetaminophen can be found in over 600 OTC and prescription medicines. When it is used according to label directions, acetaminophen has a well-established safety record. The problem is that it is possible to take too much without knowing because it is in so many different medicines.

Prescription medicines containing acetaminophen include Percocet, Vicodin, and Hydrocodone Bitartrate. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing acetaminophen include Tylenol—perhaps the most recognized OTC brand—but also Actifed, Formula 44, and Midol, to name just a few other OTCs that contain acetaminophen.

Taking more acetaminophen than directed is considered an overdose and can lead to liver damage or death. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration, though this outcome is considered very rare considering how broadly acetaminophen is used. The risk of serious liver damage is increased if a person drinks alcohol in excess and also takes acetaminophen.

View the detailed list of prescription and OTC medicines containing acetaminophen.