Pharmacists to also check paracetamol for carcinogens

Boxes ibuprofen and paracetamol
Boxes ibuprofen and paracetamol mrdoomitsDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The Dutch association for pharmacists KNMP is also launching research into possible carcinogenic substances in paracetamol, KNMP chairman Aris Prins said to NRC. The newspaper and TV program Zembla revealed last week that paracetamol produced with ingredients from Anqiu Lu'an Pharmaceutical contain the substance 4-chloroanillin (PCA), which is carcinogenic at certain concentrations.

"From curiosity I said: we are going to research the paracetamol in our own laboratory. I can get ten boxes that are sold at the supermarket, drugstore and pharmacy," Prins said to the newspaper. He added that he expects people who use these painkillers only occasionally are at little to no risk, but that could be a different story with chronic use.

According to Prins, paracetamol can only be contaminated if it is made with chlorobenzene, and not if it is made via fenol. The fenol method is more expensive. And pharmacists can't know which method was used, because the manufacturer can keep its raw materials a secret. Prins therefore calls for openness about this.

According to the Netherlands' medicines evaluation board CBG, paracetamol is unlikely to give you cancer as the amounts of PCA found by NRC and Zembla are all well below the legal dangerous limit for the substance. Nevertheless, Minister Tamara van Ark for Medical Care asked the Healthcare Inspectorate to investigate.