Published: Sat, September 08, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Common painkiller linked to increased risk of major heart problems

Common painkiller linked to increased risk of major heart problems

'Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs, ' they said in a statement.

"It's time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use", write Morten Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., registrar, Henrik Toft Sørensen, M.D., Ph.D., clinical professor and chair, and Lars Pedersen, Ph.D., professor, department of clinical epidemiology, Aarhus University.

Researchers analysed the cardiovascular risks that come with diclofenac compared with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Then, the researchers followed and studied these individuals for the next two decades from 1996 to 2006. Side effects depend on the specific drug, but largely include an increased risk of gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeds, as well as heart attack and kidney disease.

All subjects who were not taking diclofenac were matched by propensity score to diclofenac users, meaning that the groups were created to mitigate influences from factors like age and pre-existing diseases.

A study carried out by researchers in Denmark looked at nearly 1,400,000 patients who were started on diclofenac between 1996 and 2016, as well as patients who were initiated on other types of NSAIDs and patients who weren't initiated on any NSAIDs.

The researchers reviewed the data of more than 6.3 million adults in Denmark which used either diclofenac or paracetamol to treat inflammation and pain.

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According to a recent study, the painkiller diclofenac could be associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Writing in The BMJ, he says diclofenac should only be available with a prescription, like in the United Kingdom - and only them when also accompanied with an appropriate warning on the front of the pack. But given other research showing a similar heightened risk, the authors say it's clear that diclofenac needs to be more carefully handled, if not phased out of use completely.

For years, however, doctors have been anxious about diclofenac's potential heart risks.

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

It was also found to be linked to an increased risk of cardiac death when compared with taking no traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

By the way, the worst result was recorded for those people who took the drug at a lower dose than this required. Scientists should also avoid using diclofenac as a reference point to compare other NSAIDs and painkillers against in safety trials, given its unique risks, they said.

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