Unexpected paracetamol (acetaminophen) hepatotoxicity at standard dosage in two older patients: time to rethink 1 g four times daily?

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We present two cases of acute hepatotoxicity associated with elevated paracetamol (acetaminophen) levels in older patients. Both patients were receiving a standard European dose of oral paracetamol (2 × 500 mg QDS) with no risk factors for slowed metabolism (weight <50 kg, interacting medications, hepatic enzyme inducers, history of liver disease). Significantly, both patients had recently had a dose escalation from ‘as needed’ dosing to 4 g daily, and the medication was being administered by nursing staff. Our experience shows that even when prescribed appropriately at the usual therapeutic dosage, paracetamol can be hepatotoxic.

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