What is paracetamol called in the USA?
Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Jan 18, 2021.
Is Paracetamol the same as Tylenol?
Paracetamol is known as acetaminophen in the USA. Acetaminophen relieves mild-to-moderate pain, headache and fever. It is available as brand names such as Tylenol, Mapap or Panadol, and also as generics and store-specific brands.
There are no differences in the chemical structure or therapeutics uses of acetaminophen and paracetamol, although recommended doses and available strengths may vary slightly between countries.
Acetaminophen comes in many over-the-counter (OTC) forms in the U.S., including regular (325 mg) and extra-strength (500 mg) oral tablets or capsules, rapid-release, oral liquids, chewable or orally-disintegrating tablets, and rectal suppositories. A prescription intravenous (IV) form of acetaminophen (Ofirmev) is also available in the U.S.
Paracetamol is a common name used for acetaminophen throughout many areas of the world, including European countries, Australia, India, and New Zealand.
Learn more: Pain Relief: What You Need to Know
Which products in the U.S. contain acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is found in over 600 prescription and OTC products in the U.S. Acetaminophen is found alone and in combination with other products like antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, and diphenhydramine.
Common over-the-counter (OTC) combination products found in the US that contain acetaminophen include:
- Delsym NightTime Multi-Symptom (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine, phenylephrine) - for cough, runny nose, congestions, headache, cold and flu symptom relief
- Excedrin (acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine) - for migraine headache pain relief
- Robitussin Flu (acetaminophen, chlorpheniramine, dextromethorphan, and pseudoephedrine) - for headache, runny nose, cough, congestion and flu symptom relief
- Sudafed PE Sinus Headache (acetaminophen and phenylephrine) - for sinus headache symptom relief
- Theraflu Sinus and Cold (acetaminophen, pheniramine, and phenylephrine) - for sinus headache, congestion, cold, flu symptom relief
- Tylenol PM (acetaminophen and diphenhydramine) - for mild pain relief combined with an antihistamine OTC sleep aid
Many prescription pain opioid (narcotic) medicines also contain acetaminophen and are classified as controlled substances in the U.S.
Common prescription opioid combination products that contain acetaminophen include:
- Tylenol with Codeine #3 (acetaminophen and codeine)
- Hycet, Lortab, Norco (acetaminophen and hydrocodone)
- Roxicet, Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone)
- Ultracet (acetaminophen and and tramadol)
- Fioricet with codeine (acetaminophen, butalbital, caffeine, and codeine)
Is acetaminophen popular in the U.S?
In the U.S, acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers available without a prescription. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), both in the NSAID class of drugs, are other popular OTC medications used for fever and pain. NSAIDs are also effective for inflammatory pain.
Aspirin, known commonly as the brand name Bayer Aspirin, is used for pain, fever and inflammation but is also commonly used in a low dose (81 mg) to protect the heart in patients who have had a heart attack or stroke.
Acetaminophen is commonly used to treat these types of pain, although NSAIDs may be preferred for backache, toothache, or menstrual cramps, when possible:
Acetaminophen is less irritating to the stomach than other over-the-counter pain medications, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. Acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver if you take more than the recommended dose. Be sure to not exceed the total daily maximum amount of acetaminophen (3,000 to 4,000 mg) per day in adults. If you are not sure if your medicine contains acetaminophen, ask a pharmacist. Review acetaminophen side effects here.
Avoid excess alcohol consumption if you take acetaminophen to lower the risk of liver toxicity. If you drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day, talk to your doctor before taking acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is also commonly found in combination with other OTC and prescription medications, both branded and generic, in the U.S. Store brands and generics can be more affordable. A bottle of 100 tablets of extra-strength (500 mg) acetaminophen in the U.S. typically costs around $2.00 to $5.00.
Infant and children's formulations of acetaminophen are also available. See the Tylenol Dosage Charts for Infants and Children here.
How does acetaminophen work?
It’s not fully known exactly how acetaminophen works, but experts think it may block a specific type enzyme located mainly in the brain. It can help to reduce the sensation of pain and allows you to tolerate a higher level of pain.
Acetaminophen works differently than NSAIDs. NSAIDs reduce pain by blocking specific enzymes found in the body called prostaglandins. NSAIDs, like acetaminophen, work effectively in reducing fever and treating headaches, but also treat pain due to inflammation or swelling.
Advil Dual Action is an over-the-counter product that contains both acetaminophen and ibuprofen and became available in the U.S. in 2020. This product contains both ibuprofen and acetaminophen and allows you to take a lower maximum daily dose of each medication.
Learn more: Tylenol vs Advil: What's the difference?
This is not all the information you need to know about acetaminophen for safe and effective use. Review the full acetaminophen information here, and discuss this drug and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.
- Prescott LF. Paracetamol: past, present, and future. Am J Ther. 2000 Mar;7(2):143-7. PMID: 11319582. Accessed Jan. 17, 2021.
- Paracetamol (product monograph). Drugs.com. Accessed Jan. 17, 2021 at https://www.drugs.com/paracetamol.html
- Pain Relief. Drugs.com. Accessed Jan 17, 2021 at https://www.drugs.com/pain.html
- Tylenol Products. Johnson & Johnson. Accessed Jan 17, 2021 at https://www.tylenol.com/products
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