Paracetamol taken in excess can be toxic to the liver. This national intelligence report will provide insight into the safety risk of adults being unintentionally given or taking too much paracetamol.

Our national intelligence reports provide insight into current patient safety risks identified by HSIB. They include analysis and key information for consideration by relevant stakeholders to facilitate a response. When appropriate, our national intelligence reports include safety observations and safety actions.


Paracetamol is one of the most used analgesics (pain killers) in the world. It is often first-line management for mild to moderate pain. When taken appropriately it has a low risk of toxic effects. However, it is known that paracetamol in large amounts is toxic to the liver and therefore the maximum dose must never be exceeded.

HSIB has become aware of cases where people have been significantly harmed following unintentional ingestion of too much paracetamol.

This includes situations where people have:

  • been given too much paracetamol for a given time-period
  • taken standard doses of paracetamol, but which might be excessive for their particular circumstances

National intelligence report summary

This national intelligence report will:

  • describe the intelligence around unintentional overdose of paracetamol in adults
  • explore how widespread and common the risk is
  • provide safety observations of key learning to support safe use of paracetamol in adults

We expect to publish this national intelligence report in winter 2020/21.

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If you would like to speak to us about this report prior to publication, please email