Contaminated paracetamol unlikely to cause cancer: Medicines authority

Boxes ibuprofen and paracetamol
Boxes ibuprofen and paracetamol mrdoomitsDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Paracetamol will not give you cancer, the Netherlands' medicines evaluation board CBG said after a report by Zembla and NRC that a large batch of paracetamol pills were contaminated with potentially carcinogenic substance para-chloroaniline (PCA). The concentrations of PCA that the researchers found were all well below the legal limit and "the safety of the use of paracetamol is not compromised," CBG said in a statement.

According to the board, the production of medicines can result in the creation of small quantities of other chemicals. Strict limits apply to these types of substances. In setting that limit, the CBG uses the worst case scenario - in this case, someone who uses the maximum dose of paracetamol every day for their entire lives.

At the limit for PCA in paracetamol - a maximum intake of 34 micrograms per day - one additional person may get cancer out of 100 thousand who take the maximum dose every day for their entire lives. "The risk is even lower with short-term use," CBG said. "The batches that NRC and Zembla investigated all fall well below this limit."

Despite these reassurances, Minister Tamara van Ark for Medical Care said on Friday that she will ask the Healthcare Inspectorate to investigate. "I understand that people are concerned about this. According to the reports I have now received, we are still below the standards for possible dangers," Van Ark said. She added that the inspectorate was taking the news report seriously and would investigate if the concern was justified.

"I think that is very important. People should be able to assume that medicines are safe," she said to NOS. 

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