Grim Legacy of A Banned Pill

Phenacetin, a once popular pain killer, can become lethal

Even seemingly harmless medications sometimes turn out to be delayed-action disasters. Millions of people who once relied on the pain killer phenacetin to soothe headaches and aching joints have an increased risk of developing kidney disease and other life-threatening ailments, according to a report in last week's New England Journal of Medicine. The study also raises questions about the safety of another popular analgesic, acetominophen.

Phenacetin -- the common term for the compound acetophenetidin -- is best known as the P in so-called APC pills, the now discontinued pick-me-ups that also contained aspirin and caffeine. Although phenacetin is still available primarily...

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