Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen and APAP, is a medication used to treat pain and fever. It is typically used for mild to moderate pain relief. There is mixed evidence for its use to relieve fever in children. It is often sold in combination with other medications, such as in many cold medications. Paracetamol is also used for severe pain, such as cancer pain and pain after surgery, in combination with opioid pain medication. It is typically used either by mouth or rectally, but is also available by injection into a vein. Effects last between two and four hours.
Paracetamol is generally safe at recommended doses. The recommended maximum daily dose for an adult is three to four grams. Higher doses may lead to toxicity, including liver failure. Serious skin rashes may rarely occur. It appears to be safe during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. In those with liver disease, it may still be used, but in lower doses. It is classified as a mild analgesic. It does not have significant anti-inflammatory activity. How it works is not entirely clear.
Paracetamol was first made in 1877. It is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever in both the United States and Europe. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. Paracetamol is available as a generic medication with trade names including Tylenol and Panadol, among others. The wholesale price in the developing world is less than US$0.01 per dose. In the United States, it costs about US$0.04 per dose. In 2019, it was the 17th most prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 29 million prescriptions.