By Scott Tibbs, July 8, 2009
In response to 56,000 emergency room visits each year and 200 deaths caused by accidental overdoses of acetaminophen, a federal government panel has proposed "limiting the maximum single dose of the drug to 650 milligrams." The current 1,000-milligram dose is two tablets of Extra Strength Tylenol. The panel also endorsed restrictions on drugs that combine acetaminophen with other drugs.
While the numbers may seem big at first, it is important to put those numbers into perspective. We live in a nation of about 300 million people. 56,000 emergency room visits is 0.0187% (less than 2/100 of one percent) of the population. 200 deaths is 0.00007% (less than 1/10,000 of one percent) of the population. The 56,000 emergency room visits is statistically insignificant, and 200 deaths is statistically nonexistant. The FDA panel is looking for a solution where no problem exists.
The problem is that we're restricting the liberty of everyone because of the foolishness of a few. If we wanted complete safety, we could simply ban all over-the-counter drugs and have such drugs available only by prescription. (We would also create a black market.) The reality is that people are always going to misuse over-the-counter drugs. Some people use them to make meth. Others ignore recommended dosage and take more than is healthy. This is just more of the nanny state micromanaging the lives of people who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, using the foolishness and stupidity of a few as the excuse to do it.
The proposal on the table is for government to restrict our health care choices (which is a restriction on our liberty) because of the foolish behavior of a few. Why should millions of law-abiding citizens who use the medicine properly have their health care choices restricted because a few people act foolishly? To those who proclaim this is not "nanny state", how far can we go to make sure people don't hurt themselves? A ban on junk food? Federally-controlled diet and exercise regimen? A ban on alcohol? When do we reach the nanny state, and how much control is too much?
There is no crisis here and certainly no need for more federal regulations. Statistically 56,000 emergency room visits is a minor blip on the radar, and 200 deaths (while tragic) is even less statistically significant. No matter how many laws we pass and no matter how much government tries to prevent us from harming ourselves, stupid will always find a way to be stupid. If it isn't overdosing on Tylenol, some moron will be killing himself with compressed air. We can't micromanage everyone's lives because some people are idiots.