A Popular Painkiller Ingredient Increases Risks Of Heart Attack By 50%

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The commonly used painkiller diclofenac is associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, compared with no use, paracetamol use and use of other traditional painkillers, finds a study published by The BMJ.

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. 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.

Diclofenac is the most commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in low, middle, and high income countries, and it is prescribed to millions of people in the United Kingdom every year.

Using national population and prescription drug registries, they were able to look at the medical records of over 6 million Danish adults from 1996 to 2016. These risks remained regardless of the diclofenac dose.

The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency say diclofenac should not be used by people with serious underlying heart conditions. But the authors of a new study argue that diclofenac shouldn't be allowed as an over-the-counter drug, or at the very least, should be accompanied by appropriate warnings.

The adverse event rate among diclofenac initiators increased 50 percent compared with non-medication users, 20 percent compared with paracetamol or ibuprofen initiators and 30 percent compared with naproxen initiators.

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During the study period, the researchers examined the cardiovascular risks of taking up diclofenac and compared them with the risks of starting paracetamol, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Dr Schmidt said: "It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use". 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.

They said in the paper: 'Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects.

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

"It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use", Schmidt and colleagues wrote in their study, which was published on September 4.

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