Clinical Citations: Does regular use of acetaminophen increase the risk of COPD?

September 1, 2005
Volume 5, Issue 9

Studies have indicated that the use of acetaminophen is associated with an increased risk of asthma. Now there is evidence linking acetaminophen use to an increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Studies have indicated that the use of acetaminophen is associated with an increased risk of asthma. Now there is evidence linking acetaminophen use to an increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

McKeever and associates analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants ranged in age from 20 to 80 years; the mean age was 44.9 years. The prevalence of COPD and asthma was 11.8% and 6.9%, respectively.

The use of acetaminophen was associated with an increased prevalence of COPD; the odds ratio (OR) was 1.16 (P < .001). There was a significant dose-response relationship. The results also indicated a dose-response relationship between acetaminophen use and the prevalence of asthma (OR, 1.2). Adjustment for potential confound-ing variables did not significantly change the results.

Forced expiratory volume in 1 second was inversely related to acetaminophen use. The negative effect on lung function was observed only among participants who used acetaminophen daily.

The authors note that regular use of acetaminophen may reduce levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which is normally found in high concentrations in the airway epithelial lining. The depletion of glutathione may increase the risk of damage to lung tissue.