acetaminophen (əsētˌəmĭnˈəfĭn) [key], an analgesic and fever-reducing medicine. It is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter medicines, including Tylenol and Midol. Introduced in the early 1900s, acetaminophen is a coal tar derivative that acts by interfering with the synthesis of prostaglandins and other substances necessary for the transmission of pain impulses. Although its action is similar to that of aspirin, it lacks aspirin's anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning effects, is less irritating to the stomach, and can be used by people who are allergic to aspirin. Heavy use, however, has been linked to an increased incidence of liver failure, especially in heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages and in those who are not eating enough, and overdose, especially in children, can be fatal.
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