September 21, 2018

Painkiller Linked to Increased Risk of Major Heart Problems

08 September 2018, 12:32 | Silvia Roy

One of the world's most-used painkillers, diclofenac, the active component in Difene, has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in a major study published on Wednesday morning. The relatively increased risk was seen across the board, including in people who took a lower dose as well as those with no existing history of cardiovascular disease.

Ever since then, medical researchers have remained on high alert; wondering if any other drugs in this class - which includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) - should be abandoned due to their cardiovascular risks.

And while treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients, they concluded: "Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs".

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"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.

Are you anxious the medication you take could be impacting your overall health negatively?

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.

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Prescribed under brand names such as Voltaren, Cambia, Pennsaid, Solaraze, Flector, Zipsor, and Dyloject, the new study finds taking this painkiller can increase your risk of both heart attacks and strokes.

Dr Schmidt and colleagues took a different approach by analysing national registry data for more than 6.3 million middle aged adults in Denmark. 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. The researchers looked at records between 1996 and 2006. Among patients at moderate baseline risk, corresponding figures were seven, seven, eight and 14 additional events, respectively, and for those at high baseline risk, corresponding numbers were 16, 10, one and 39 additional events, respectively.

Diclofenac was also associated with an increased rate of cardiac death and upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the anti-inflammatory tablets carried a "small but increased" risk of heart problems.

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But its cardiovascular risks compared with those of other traditional NSAIDs have never been examined in large randomized controlled trials, and current concerns about these risks make such trials unethical to conduct.

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