Multiple-dose pharmacokinetics of rectally administered acetaminophen in term infants

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Nov;66(5):509-15. doi: 10.1016/S0009-9236(99)70014-7.


Objective: To investigate pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of rectally administered acetaminophen (INN, paracetamol) in term neonates directly after birth.

Methods: In this prospective clinical trial, term neonates wtih painful conditions or who were undergoing painful procedures received multiple-dose acetaminophen. Serum concentrations were determined serially with an HPLC method, and pharmacokinetic analysis was performed. Pain assessment was performed by means of a validated pain score.

Results: Ten consecutive term neonates received four rectal doses of acetaminophen, 20 mg/kg body weight, every 6 hours. Mean peak serum concentrations (+/-SD) during multiple-dose administration were 10.79 +/- 6.39 mg/L, 15.34 +/- 5.21 mg/L, and 6.24 +/- 3.64 mg/L for the entire group, boys, and girls, respectively. There was a significant difference between the boys and the girls (P = .01). No serum concentrations associated with toxicity (>120 mg/L) were found. Median time to peak serum concentration was 1.5 hours after the first dose and 15 hours for multiple doses. Mean (+/-SD) half-life was 2.7 +/- 1.4 hours in eight patients. There was no correlation between dose and serum concentration or between pain score and serum concentration. There was a significant inverse relationship between the preceding pain score and peak serum concentrations.

Conclusions: In term neonates, multiple rectal doses of acetaminophen, 20 mg/kg body weight, led to widely varying serum concentrations but did not result in therapeutic concentrations in all infants. Boys had higher peak concentrations. Because accumulation was not found, a dose of 30 mg/kg followed by doses of 20 mg/kg at 6- to 8-hour administration intervals are appropriate to reach therapeutic concentrations. A concentration-effect relationship could not be determined.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage*
  • Acetaminophen / blood
  • Acetaminophen / pharmacokinetics*
  • Administration, Rectal
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / blood
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pain / blood*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen