Common painkiller linked to an increased risk of heart problems

Pearl Mccarthy
September 9, 2018

The study explored the cardiovascular risk of one prescription drug Diclofenac and found it can cause serious problems for heart patients if taken for an extended period of time.

Now a groundbreaking study of more than six million people, the biggest of its kind, has linked them to "major cardiovascular events".

When all these simulated trials was averaged out, people who took diclofenac were 50 per cent more likely to have cardiovascular problems in the first 30 days after use than were people who took nothing.

Its cardiovascular risks compared with those of other traditional NSAIDs have never been examined in large randomised controlled trials.

As it is used mostly to treat inflammations and pains, diclofenac, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, also known as NSAID, is broadly consumed all over the world.

The results are based on national registry data for more than 6.3 million adults in Denmark with at least one year of continuous prescription records before study entry in January 1996.

Diclofenac is a component which is frequently found in painkillers which are usually used to alleviate back pain, arthritis, and sciatica.

Researchers analysed the cardiovascular risks that come with diclofenac compared with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

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For example, they looked at people who reported taking diclofenac in 1996, then tracked their health for the next 12 months, while comparing them to people who either took other NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or nothing at all.

The risk of gastrointestinal bleeding at 30 days increased 4.5-fold in patients who started diclofenac compared to those who didn't.

The findings prompted researchers to say that diclofenac should not be available over the counter, and when prescribed, should be accompanied by an appropriate front package warning about its potential risks. On the other hand, paracetamol, another common painkiller, as well as ibuprofen, showed reduced risks of heart problems, compared with diclofenac.

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects".

The authors point out that, although the relative risk was increased, the absolute risk remained low for the individual patient.

While the researchers did acknowledge this was an observational study, they also noted the sample sizes they used were larger than what has been used with previous research on the same subject.

People who have suffered heart failure, heart disease or a stroke should stop using it completely.

The researchers believe its high time that the potential health risks of the drug are recognised and that its usage is reduced, including not making it available over the counter.

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