Painkiller diclofenac linked to increased heart risks in study

Researchers concluded: "Diclofenac poses a cardiovascular health risk compared with non-use, paracetamol use, and use of other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs".

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. Risks that were overlooked or unapparent during safety studies that occurred years to decades ago.

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects", they wrote. The risks were evident whether the participants took high, or low doses of the drug. Diclofenac is a traditional NSAID that has similar selectivity for cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX 2) as COX 2 inhibitors, but the cardiovascular risks of diclofenac in comparison with other traditional NSAIDs have not been investigated through a randomized controlled trial.

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).

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Diclofenac, a commonly used painkiller, was associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes, compared with no medication or other medication, according to a study in Denmark.

The study authors, based at Aarhus University Hospital, say the findings show it is time to "acknowledge potential health risks of diclofenac and reduce its use". The rate of major adverse cardiovascular events was also 20% higher among diclofenac initiators than among those who started taking paracetamol, or ibuprofen, and 30% higher among diclofenac initiators than patients who started to take naproxen. The authors then compared the documented health issues that arose within 30 days in individuals given a course of diclofenac (1.3 million people) to those of 3.8 million people given ibuprofen, 291,490 given naproxen, 764,781 people given the non-NSAID pain reliever paracetamol, and 1.3 million people not prescribed any drug at all.

Diclofenac was made prescription-only in 2015 due to its associated "small risk" with heart problems. According to Daily Mail, many parts of the world - including the United Kingdom - have banned diclofenac as an over-the-counter medication because of its adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. The researchers compared the history of 6.3 million patients aged 46 to 49 years, which were divided into three groups, including the risk of morbidity: low, medium and high.

However, they add: "This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect".

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