Paracetamol: mechanism of action, applications and safety concern

Acta Pol Pharm. 2014 Jan-Feb;71(1):11-23.


Paracetamol/acetaminophen is one of the most popular and most commonly used analgesic and antipyretic drugs around the world, available without a prescription, both in mono- and multi-component preparations. It is the drug of choice in patients that cannot be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), such as people with bronchial asthma, peptic ulcer disease, hemophilia, salicylate-sensitized people, children under 12 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is recommended as a first-line treatment of pain associated with osteoarthritis. The mechanism of action is complex and includes the effects of both the peripheral (COX inhibition), and central (COX, serotonergic descending neuronal pathway, L-arginine/NO pathway, cannabinoid system) antinociception processes and "redox" mechanism. Paracetamol is well tolerated drug and produces few side effects from the gastrointestinal tract, however, despite that, every year, has seen a steadily increasing number of registered cases of paracetamol-induced liver intoxication all over the world. Given the growing problem of the safety of acetaminophen is questioned the validity of the sale of the drug without a prescription. This work, in conjunction with the latest reports on the mechanism of action of paracetamol, trying to point out that it is not a panacea devoid of side effects, and indeed, especially when is taken regularly and in large doses (> 4 g/day), there is a risk of serious side effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / adverse effects
  • Acetaminophen / pharmacology
  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Humans


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Acetaminophen