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Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) Efficacy and Safety in the Newborn

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Neonates can perceive pain, therefore an adequate analgesic therapy is a major issue not only from an ethical perspective but also to improve short- and long-term outcome. Fever during the neonatal period requires hospitalization and needs a treatment with an antipyretic agent because of the high risk of severe complications.

Paracetamol (acetaminophen), the most commonly prescribed drug in paediatric patients for its analgesic and antipyretic effects, is the only agent recommended for use as an antipyretic in the newborn and has been recently proposed as a supplement therapy to opioids for postoperative analgesia.

This article aims to give an updated overview on the use of paracetamol in newborns by presenting its pharmacological profile (mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics), recommendations for dosing regimens (oral or rectal administration: 25-30 mg/kg/day in preterm neonates of 30 weeks' gestation, 45 mg/kg/day in preterm neonates of 34 weeks' gestation, 60 mg/kg/day in term neonates; i.v. administration: indicatively 20-40 mg/kg/day depending on gestational age, with some differences among various guidelines) and clinical uses (more commonly as analgesic/antipyretic by oral or rectal route, but also i.v. in anaesthesia for postoperative analgesia and painful procedures in Neonatal Intensive Care Units). Moreover, drug tolerability is discussed in the light of its potential hepatotoxicity and the unique characteristics of the newborn patient.

By analyzing the available literature and the dosing guidelines, a mismatch exists between the current clinical use of paracetamol and the recommendations, suggesting a cautious approach particularly in extremely preterm neonates.
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Keywords: Acetaminophen; Acetanilide; Analgesic; Antipyretic; Efficacy; Hepatotoxicity; Neonates; PGHS; newborns; paracetamol; pharmacokinetics; safety

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Current Drug Metabolism aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments in drug metabolism and disposition. The journal serves as an international forum for the publication of timely reviews in drug metabolism. Current Drug Metabolism is an essential journal for academic, clinical, government and pharmaceutical scientists who wish to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments. The journal covers the following areas:

    In vitro systems including CYP-450; enzyme induction and inhibition; drug-drug interactions and enzyme kinetics; pharmacokinetics, toxicokinetics, species scaling and extrapolations; P-glycoprotein and transport carriers; target organ toxicity and interindividual variability; drug metabolism and disposition studies; extrahepatic metabolism; phase I and phase II metabolism; recent developments for the identification of drug metabolites and adducts.
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