THE BRITISH Technology Group (BTG) recently licensed Penn Pharmaceuticals to manufacture a "safer paracetamol," according to a report in New Scientist (Vol 135 No 1836). Paracetamol was considered a safe painkiller until it was found that if consumed in large doses, it could be fatal. When broken down in the liver, paracetamol leaves behind a highly toxic metabolite.
In 1974, Andre McLean of University College Hospital in London had patented a combination of paracetamol and the amino acid methionine, which activates the production of an antidote for the toxic metabolite. BTG bought the patent for the "safer paracetamol" in the 1970s but found drug companies reluctant to market it because they thought publicity about the new drug could damage the public impression of paracetamol as "safe."
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