Acetaminophen is the most widely used over-the-counter and prescription painkiller in the world. However, a new study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases suggests that the risks of this popular analgesic may have been underestimated by doctors.

The mechanism behind the painkilling effect of acetaminophen, or paracetamol, is largely unknown, although recent studies suggest that the drug inhibits the central nervous system from producing prostaglandin. Generally, acetaminophen is considered to be safer than other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and opiate analgesics.

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