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What is Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is a non-addictive drug that can be used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever. Acetaminophen is commonly used to treat headache, arthritis and back pain, tooth pain, the common cold, sore throat, sinus infection, bites, stings, and sprains. Acetaminophen is available over-the-counter in the U.S. or at higher strengths by prescription.

How does Acetaminophen work?

Like NSAIDs (see NSAID section), acetaminophen inhibits the production of prostaglandins in the body which promote fever. Unlike NSAIDs, acetaminophen is not a potent inhibitor of COX-1 or COX-2 and only has limited anti-inflammatory effects. Thus acetaminophen is a potent fever reducer and appears to raise the threshold for pain making it harder for nociceptive information to be interpreted as pain by the brain.

What are the names of some Acetaminophen products?

  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol, Paracetamol, Panadol)
  • Common Brands that combine Acetaminophen with other drugs
  • Acetaminophen + aspirin + caffeine (e.g., Excedrin)


Some of the short-term side effects of paracetamol include:

  • headache
  • rash
  • nausea

Some of the long-term risks of acetaminophen:

  • In general, acetaminophen does not have the risks associated with COX-1 and COX-2 inhibition but does carry some risk of liver injury and kidney damage in the long term.

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