Minister Van Ark and pharmacists: use paracetamol is safe

The use of paracetamol is safe. That’s what Minister Van Ark for Medical Care and the KNMP pharmacists’ organisation say. Last month, NRC and Zembla reported that raw materials from the world’s largest manufacturer of paracetamol contain the carcinogenic substance PCA. In normal use, however, this remains far below the permitted quantity, according to both a study commissioned by Van Ark and a study conducted by KNMP

Minister Van Ark announced an investigation after the media reports and has now sent the results to the House of Representatives. The Medicines Evaluation Board and the Health Care and Youth Inspectorate conclude that there is no evidence that the limits for PCA have been exceeded.

According to Van Ark, there is therefore no reason to talk to pharmacists, chemists and supermarkets about taking paracetamol off the shelves.

Research pharmacists

Pharmacists’ organisation KNMP carried out its own research by buying 19 different brands of paracetamol. No PCA was found in the tablets containing 500 mg. Very low concentrations could not have been detected, but according to the KNMP, patients receive at most 5 percent of the admissible amount of PCA on a daily basis

“People can continue to take paracetamol,” says KNMP chairman Aris Prins. “The production of paracetamol is subject to purity limits, as they apply to all medicines. Our research shows that in all cases the material tested remained well within the limits, preferably by a factor of at least twenty.”

Different limits

The limit the studies refer to is 34 micrograms of PCA per day. This limit has been set by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) applies a much lower limit: 2.8 micrograms per day. This difference is partly due to the fact that a maximum daily dose applies to medicines and that such a limit does not exist for food

Yesterday, NRC and Zembla also reported that contamination with PCA has not been found in eleven popular brands of paracetamol for sale in the Netherlands. A Belgian laboratory did not find a measurable amount of the carcinogenic substance in any of the tablets.