Common painkiller may increase heart attack, stroke risk

Diclofenac is found in Voltaren, Arthrotec, and more treatments.

Common painkillers may hide major risks, says a new study.

Use of diclofenac, a commonly used NSAID for treating pain and inflammation, is linked to increased risk for cardiovascular events. Back in 2013, a major Oxford University study found that for every 1,000 people with a moderate risk of heart disease taking 150mg a day for a year, about three would experience an avoidable heart attack, of which one would be fatal.

However, due to ethical concerns, these risks can not be evaluated in clinical trials.

This is the first time the drug's cardiovascular risks were compared with those of other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, in large randomized controlled trials. Compared with taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, taking diclofenac raised cardiovascular risk by 20 percent.

The researchers concluded that diclofenac should not be available over the counter and, when prescribed, should be accompanied by an appropriate package warnings about its potential risks.

The new study, however, examined this common painkiller's negative impact on the circulatory system and found out that this drug is indeed increasing the risks of cardiovascular conditions, heart attack and stroke included, as reported by the leading author Morten Schmidt at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. The researchers looked at records between 1996 and 2006. With paracetamol, the difference is also huge - heart disease can be traced in the dynamics of the three times more than those who made a decision to Diclofenac. Average age was 46 to 49 years among participants starting NSAIDs and 56 years among those starting paracetamol. In other words, the higher the risk of heart problems when the patients started taking the drug, the higher the risk of actually developing heart problems over the course of the treatment.

The cardiovascular threat also increased with the risk at baseline. The risks were evident whether the participants took high, or low doses of the drug.

Researchers explained that irregular heart beats, heart flutters, ischaemic stroke, heart failure and heart attacks were potential cardiovascular events that could occur when taking Diclofenac. use of the drug was also linked to an increased rate of cardiac death compared to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers.

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

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.

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