Readers of this blog will know that I have some concerns about the regulation of pain medications. The FDA continues to warn about the issue of liver injury when taking acetaminophen.
For a moment, let's ignore the case of people taking the drug inappropriately or for whom another medication would provide better symptom control. They exist and are relevant to policy discussions, but they distract from today's main thought.
We can measure liver damage and death (hard outcomes). We cannot easily measure pain -- what level of pain relief is worth a 1% chance of death?
So do we leave it up to individual judgment? Drugs can be confusing and acetaminophen (due to efficacy) is included in a lot of preparations (for important reasons). So what is the ideal balance between these two goals (prevent adverse events and relieving pain)?
It would be so much easier if pain were easy to measure . . .