Author(s): Waring WS
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Abstract Paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose remains the leading cause of death or transplantation due to acute liver failure in many parts of the world. Acetylcysteine has long been recognized as an effective antidote, via oral or intravenous administration, minimizing the risk and severity of acute liver injury if administered sufficiently early after a paracetamol overdose. Despite this, its mechanisms of action remain obscure, and there is uncertainty regarding the optimal dose and duration of treatment. The intravenous infusion protocol was originally developed as a three-step loading regimen; it causes very high early peak plasma concentrations of acetylcysteine whereas the later maintenance infusion is associated with much lower concentrations. This pharmacokinetic profile is associated with two particular concerns: a high rate of occurrence of adverse effects that occur after the initial loading infusion, and the possibility that the maintenance phase of treatment might deliver too low a dose of acetylcysteine for optimum protection against liver injury. Recently described novel administration regimens offer different rates of intravenous acetylcysteine administration in both the loading and maintenance phases. These alternative regimens appear to be well tolerated in small patient groups, but too few clinical data are available to evaluate their comparative efficacy in preventing paracetamol-induced liver injury.
This article was published in Ther Adv Drug Saf
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Toxicology