Kinetics and metabolism of paracetamol and phenacetin

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1980 Oct;10 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):291S-298S. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.1980.tb01812.x.


1 The rate of absorption of oral paracetamol depends on the rate of gastric emptying and is usually rapid and complete. The mean systemic availability is about 75%. 2 Paracetamol is extensively metabolized and the plasma half-life is 1.5-2.5 hours. About 55% and 30% of a therapeutic dose is excreted in the urine as glucuronide and sulphate conjugates, respectively, whereas mercapturic acid and cysteine conjugates (representing conversion to a potentially toxic intermediate metabolite) each account for some 4% of the dose. Paracetamol metabolism is age- and dose-dependent. 3 With hepatotoxic doses, paracetamol metabolism is impaired and the half-life prolonged. Sulphate conjugation is saturated and the proportion excreted as mercapturic acid and cysteine conjugates is increased. 4 The renal clearance of paracetamol depends on urine flow rate by not pH. The renal clearances of the glucuronide and sulphate conjugates often exceed the glomerular filtration rate and are independent of urine flow and pH. 5 Phenacetin absorption depends on formulation. It is extensively metabolized to paracetamol and minor metabolites are probably responsible for toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage
  • Acetaminophen / metabolism*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kinetics
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Phenacetin / adverse effects
  • Phenacetin / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Acetaminophen
  • Phenacetin