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Shameful sensationalism from the drive-by media

By Scott Tibbs, January 19, 2011

Last Thursday night's ABC World News was a classic example of sensationalistic fear mongering from the drive-by media. The problem is that 56,000 people are hospitalized each year due to acetaminophen overdose. There are 200 fatalities each year. Diane Sawyer said this was a "quiet crisis."

A crisis? Really? Do you know what percentage of the population that is?

  • The number of people who are hospitalized from acetaminophen overdose is 0.0187% of the population.
  • The number of people who die from acetaminophen overdose is 0.000067% of the population.

That's right folks. The number of people hospitalized - the far larger number - is less than two one-hundredths of one percent of the population. That sure does not sound like a "crisis" to me.

This is shameful sensationalism. In fact, it is worse than sensationalism. Trying to spin this statistically insignificant number as some sort of "crisis" is a brazen lie. Diane Sawyer is guilty of journalistic malpractice.

The FDA issued more restrictive guidelines for prescription drugs containing acetaminophen, and is considering regulating over-the-counter drugs as well.

Certainly, the death of 200 people every year is a tragedy, especially since these deaths are completely preventable. But this is a problem that can easily (and should be) be solved by more education, not more restrictive government regulations. If the maximum dose for extra-strength Tylenol is reduced to 325 milligrams per pill from 500, I will simply take 3 pills for a total of 975 milligrams so I can get the same effect I do now.

What we have here is a bunch of nanny sate ninnies who think we are far too stupid to take care of ourselves or understand what is in the medicines we take. But the statistics are clear: acetaminophen overdose is by no means a national crisis. The bubble wrap caucus needs to stay out of this one.