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Phenacetin yet again

Abstract

In 19621 and again last year2 we drew attention to the dangers of phenacetin, and we were therefore glad to see the Pharmaceutical Society remind its members3 that phenacetin, continuously used for long periods, can induce serious renal damage. The Society advised pharmacists to warn regular purchasers of phenacetin-containing mixtures of the possible consequences and to recommend to them possible alternatives. They did this following a report of an inquest in which death was attributed to phenacetin-induced renal damage. Their apparently sensible action elicited an announcement by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, stating that the dangers were exaggerated and damage only followed gross abuse. Clinical reports, however, suggest that doses within the range recommended by promoters of these remedies may not be safe. As is so often the case with chronic drug toxicity, the evidence is not conclusive, but the wisest course with such a non-essential drug, pending further elucidation, seems to be to accept that there is a risk rather than to belittle it.

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