Acetaminophen (Page 4 of 5)

8.6 Patients with Hepatic Impairment

Acetaminophen is contraindicated in patients with severe hepatic impairment or severe active liver disease and should be used with caution in patients with hepatic impairment or active liver disease [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1) and Clinical Pharmacology (12)]. A reduced total daily dose of acetaminophen may be warranted.

8.7 Patients with Renal Impairment

In cases of severe renal impairment (creatinine clearance ≤ 30 mL/min), longer dosing intervals and a reduced total daily dose of acetaminophen may be warranted.


Signs and Symptoms

In acute acetaminophen overdosage, dose-dependent, potentially fatal hepatic necrosis is the most serious adverse effect. Renal tubular necrosis, hypoglycemic coma, and thrombocytopenia may also occur. Plasma acetaminophen levels > 300 mcg/mL at 4 hours after oral ingestion were associated with hepatic damage in 90% of patients; minimal hepatic damage is anticipated if plasma levels at 4 hours are < 150 mcg/mL or < 37.5 mcg/mL at 12 hours after ingestion. Early symptoms following a potentially hepatotoxic overdose may include: nausea, vomiting, diaphoresis, and general malaise. Clinical and laboratory evidence of hepatic toxicity may not be apparent until 48 to 72 hours post-ingestion.


If an acetaminophen overdose is suspected, obtain a serum acetaminophen assay as soon as possible, but no sooner than 4 hours following oral ingestion. Obtain liver function studies initially and repeat at 24-hour intervals. Administer the antidote N-acetylcysteine (NAC) as early as possible. As a guide to treatment of acute ingestion, the acetaminophen level can be plotted against time since oral ingestion on a nomogram (Rumack-Matthew). The lower toxic line on the nomogram is equivalent to 150 mcg/mL at 4 hours and 37.5 mcg/mL at 12 hours. If serum level is above the lower line, administer the entire course of NAC treatment. Withhold NAC therapy if the acetaminophen level is below the lower line.

For additional information, call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.


Acetaminophen is a non-salicylate antipyretic and non-opioid analgesic agent. Its chemical name is N-acetyl-p-aminophenol. Acetaminophen is a white, crystalline powder. Acetaminophen has a molecular weight of 151.16. Its structural formula is:

(click image for full-size original)

Acetaminophen injection is a sterile, clear, colorless to slightly yellow colored, non-pyrogenic, isotonic formulation of acetaminophen intended for intravenous infusion. It has a pH of approximately 5.5 and an osmolality of approximately 290 mOsm/kg. Each 100 mL contains 1000 mg acetaminophen, USP, 3850 mg mannitol, USP, 25 mg cysteine hydrochloride, monohydrate, USP, and 10.4 mg dibasic sodium phosphate, USP. pH is adjusted with hydrochloric acid and/or sodium hydroxide.


12.1 Mechanism of Action

The precise mechanism of the analgesic and antipyretic properties of acetaminophen is not established but is thought to primarily involve central actions.

12.2 Pharmacodynamics

Acetaminophen has been shown to have analgesic and antipyretic activities in animal and human studies.

Single doses of acetaminophen up to 3000 mg and repeated doses of 1000 mg every 6 hours for 48 hours have not been shown to cause a significant effect on platelet aggregation. Acetaminophen does not have any immediate or delayed effects on small-vessel hemostasis. Clinical studies of both healthy subjects and patients with hemophilia showed no significant changes in bleeding time after receiving multiple doses of oral acetaminophen.

12.3 Pharmacokinetics


The pharmacokinetics of acetaminophen have been studied in patients and healthy subjects up to 60 years old. The pharmacokinetic profile of acetaminophen has been demonstrated to be dose proportional in adults following administration of single doses of 500, 650, and 1000 mg.

The maximum concentration (Cmax ) occurs at the end of the 15 minute intravenous infusion of acetaminophen. Compared to the same dose of oral acetaminophen, the Cmax following administration of acetaminophen is up to 70% higher, while overall exposure (area under the concentration time curve [AUC]) is very similar.

Pharmacokinetic parameters of acetaminophen (AUC, Cmax , terminal elimination half-life [T½ ], systemic clearance [CL], and volume of distribution at steady state [Vss ]) following administration of a single intravenous dose of 15 mg/kg in children and adolescents and 1000 mg in adults are summarized in Table 5.

Table 5. Acetaminophen Pharmacokinetic Parameters


Mean (SD)


(mcg × h/mL)










38 (8)

29 (7)

3.0 (1.5)

0.34 (0.10)

1.2 (0.3)


41 (7)

31 (9)

2.9 (0.7)

0.29 (0.08)

1.1 (0.3)


43 (11)

28 (21)

2.4 (0.6)

0.27 (0.08)

0.8 (0.2)

The concentrations of acetaminophen observed in neonates greater than 32 weeks gestational age at birth treated with 12.5 mg/kg dose are similar to infants, children and adolescents treated with a 15 mg/kg dose, and similar to adults treated with a 1000 mg dose.

At therapeutic levels, binding of acetaminophen to plasma proteins is low (ranging from 10% to 25%). Acetaminophen appears to be widely distributed throughout most body tissues except fat.

Metabolism and Excretion

Acetaminophen is primarily metabolized in the liver by first-order kinetics and involves three principal separate pathways: Conjugation with glucuronide, conjugation with sulfate, and oxidation via the cytochrome P450 enzyme pathway, primarily CYP2E1, to form a reactive intermediate metabolite (N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine or NAPQI). With therapeutic doses, NAPQI undergoes rapid conjugation with glutathione and is then further metabolized to form cysteine and mercapturic acid conjugates.

Acetaminophen metabolites are mainly excreted in the urine. Less than 5% is excreted in the urine as unconjugated (free) acetaminophen and more than 90% of the administered dose is excreted within 24 hours.

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