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Chemistry Paper

Chemistry Paper - Alex Ma Chemistry 101-01 19 November 2007...

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Alex Ma Chemistry 101-01 19 November 2007 The Good, Bad and Ugly of Acetaminophen Introduction Being a constantly stressed person dealing with chronic sleep deprivation, it is an understatement that the medicine acetaminophen, an ingredient most commonly found in Tylenol and other over-the-counter medicines, is a useful drug to me. All too often, its chemical usage to alleviate “many kinds of minor aches and pains—headaches, muscle aches, backaches, toothaches, menstrual cramps, arthritis, and the aches and pains that often accompany colds” are used and abused (Ross-Flanigan and Odle 19). Although acetaminophen remains as one of the most widely used and common nonprescription drugs today, one should not forget how it can also be potentially deadly. Acetaminophen is also known outside of the United States as paracetamol, but for the purposes of this paper shall only be referred to as its American name. Acetaminophen, deriving it name from its compound name, para - acet yl aminophen ol, a para-aminophenol analgesic and is the active metabolite of phenacetin. It is classified by the Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs as an “internal analgesic” and “analgesic-antipyretic,” meaning it is a pain and fever relieving drug taken orally or internally. Analgesic drug, Phenacetin, introduced in 1887, is “used principally as an analgesic painkiller” and “acts as a negative inotrope” as a depressant to slow down
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muscular contractions. However, phenacetin has been known to have “toxic effects of phenacetin at therapeutic doses and thus, “the majority of phenacetin “is biotransformed[or metabolized into] acetaminophen” (Handbook 195). The origin of acetaminophen has been notated as being a mistake. In the 1886, at the University of Strassberg, Professor Kusmall of the Department of Internal Medicine asked two assistants, Drs. Arnold Cahn and Paul Hepp of France to give naphthalene, a crystalline hydrocarbon found in mothballs, to treat “a patient suffering from intestinal [worms]” (West 1). Cahn and Hepp had been investigating on naphthalene’s treatment for such problems. Supply for the drug was low, so the two ordered more but had mistakenly been given acetanilide instead. Cahn and Hepp observed that acetanilide “produced marked fever reduction in one of their patients” and had “analgesic properties” (Ellis 3). Soon, the acetanilide was widely prescribed and produced to patients but was found to have severe “serious side effects involving the deactivation of haemoglobin.” Derivates of acetanilide, including phenacetin, were synthesized. From 1893 onward, German physician, Joseph Freiher von Mering, noticed acetaminophen as a “major metabolite” and was “rapidly formed in the guts of people who took phenacetin.” Unlike aspirin and ibuprofen, acetaminophen inhibits pain more “in the cells of the nervous system” and “is a much less effective inhibitor of this in other tissues” (Knight 1). In 1948, biochemists Bernard Brodie and Julius Axelrod determined that the analgesic effect of acetanilide was due to its active metabolite acetaminophen. The two advocated
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