Paracetamol Synthesis and Uses

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Paracetamol – Synthesis and Uses

Discovered in 1877 by Harmon Northrop Morse at the John Hopkins University, Paracetamol was one of several aniline deriviatives that was found to have analgesic and antipyretic properties (Brodie 23). It was first synthesized by the reduction of p-nitrophenol with tin in glacial acetic acid; however was not used classified as a medication until ten year later (Bertolini 264). Initially, phenacetin, a closely related compound that exhibited similar physiological effects, became the popular over the counter drug for headaches (Bertolini 251). However, later research by Brodie and Axelrod in 1949 found that phenacetin was in fact metabolized into paracetamol within the body (Brodie and Axelrod 60). Subsequently, paracetamol quickly took the place of phenacetin and remains one of the most common over the counter medication for fever reduction and pain relief. Found in drugstores worldwide, paracetamol is commonly known by its American brand name, Tylenol. Paracetamol is chemically named N-acetyl – p – aminophenol. The chemical structure is an aromatic six-membered ring with a hydroxyl substituent placed para to the N-acetyl substituent.

As the use of paracetamol increased, scientists and reserachers have looked into the most efficient methods of synthesizing the compound. In 1997, demand for paracetamol in the United States was estimated at 30-35 thousand tons per year(IARC 73). Global demand was similarly heavy in many other countries. There are numerous synthetic pathways that are presently known that seek to produce the compound most efficient manner. In determining efficiency, the many factors must be taken into account. The most important ones include the cost of the reagents,...

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...light of paracetmol’s physiological effects. The compound exhibits characteristics that mirror other analgesics and anti-pyretics but also displays unique properties that can be advantageous in certain treatment plans. Its anti-inflammatory activity is not as strong as other similar medications known as NSAIDS; fully refereed to as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The main mechanism proposed for paracetamol involves the highly selective inhibition of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase; abbreviated COX. There are two isoenyzmes of cyclooxygenase are of similar molecular weight and structure but each take on different functions. They are labeled COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is present in most tissues and but functions more specifically on maintaining the lining of the stomach. It also plays other vital roles within the body such as platelet and kidney function.

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