Empirin Compound

ALG Says:

Empirin was a product of Burroughs Wellcome & Co. An effective over-the-counter pain reliever. It was a mixture (compound) of equal amounts of phenacetin and aspirin plus some caffeine. The inclusion of caffeine acts as an anti-depression agent. In the 1960s, this protected formula was sold to Bristol Meyers who marketed it (famously) as Excedrin. In 1983, the FDA banned phenacetin after studies revealed that was harmful to the kidneys and linked to cancer. Following the FDA's ruling, the 'Excedrin' formula was modified by replacing phenacetin with acetaminophen. In 2005, Bristol Meyers sold the formula and name to Novartis who continues to produce and market it as Excedrin. The same "Excedrin" formula is also available from equivalent labels - usually at lower cost. As with all over-the-counter pain relievers, learn the ingredients and follow the instructions that are on the label. ALG-July 2014

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David Says:

Hey ALG,

Thanks for the background info on Empirin. It's hard to really know what the dangers are with any given medication until they come out with these studies (often decades later) saying that it can cause this or that as an uncommon but deadly side effect. Hopefully as justice is served for those unfortunate patients who took phenacetin believing that it was safe, the legal rewards will help offset whatever damage or cancer this substance brought about.

Makes me wonder if the new Excedrin will also have similar claims made against it 10 years from now (starting with acetaminophen leading to liver failure)?

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ALG Says:

In the 1990s, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) was heavily promoted as a safe alternative to aspirin. Hospital studies were cited, etc. and supposedly, hospitals left and right were dropping aspirin in favor of Tylenol as a pain reliever for their patients. The primary reason, Acetaminophen doesn't irritate stomach lining as aspirin can. That was then, in the past few years the medical world has been warning users about the serious side effects from using Acetaminophen. Protracted use of Tylenol, and other brands of Acetaminophen, has been shown to cause serious liver damage. In other words, it's worse that taking Aspirin. The big problem with any "pain reliever" is taking too much in one day and/or taking too much over a period of days, etc. Any non-prescription pain reliever taken in minimal amounts for short periods is considered safe. ALG Oct2014

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Anonamous Says:

I believe that APC powder had the same ingredients as the original Empirin, i.e., aspirin phenacetin and caffeine.

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Dave Says:

Empirin Coumpound was a combination of aspirain, phenacetin and caffeine. It was used for decades OTC and by Rx combined with codeine or phenobarbital. All formulations were effective. By the way, the kidney toxicity was called analgesic nephropathy and was thought to be a problem in combination and in high doses. People who developed nephropathy generally abused the OTC product somtimes taking 50-100 tablets per day for years. In the 40's & 50's, modern anti-inflamatody drugs were not available for chronic conditions like OA & RA

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