Common painkiller linked to an increased risk of heart problems

The European Society of Cardiology therefore carried out an extensive review of existing research that concluded that nonaspirin NSAIDs should not be prescribed to individuals at high risk of heart disease, nor should they be sold over the counter without issuing an "appropriate warning of their frequent cardiovascular complications".

The researchers believe that people should finally recognize the potential health risks of the drug and reduce its usage.

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.

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be of value to some patients to improve their quality of life despite possible side effects". The results were the same in both men and women of all ages, regardless of the dose intake.

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.

As it is used mostly to treat inflammations and pains, diclofenac, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, also known as NSAID, is broadly consumed all over the world.

They also increased by 20 percent compared to those on ibuprofen or paracetamol, and 30 percent compared to those using naproxen.

They found that the widely used painkiller was associated with an increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in the first 30 days of use when compared with ibuprofen, naproxen and paracetamol. The researchers took participants between the ages of 46 to 56 and placed them in three different groups based on whether they were a low, medium, or high baseline for cardiovascular problems.

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Events included irregular heart beat or flutter, ischaemic stroke, heart failure and heart attack.

The researchers said that given the risks, doctors should be initiating treatment where indicated with other types of NSAIDs before considering diclofenac.

Diclofenac was also associated with an increased rate of cardiac death and upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

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

More specifically, diclofenac initiators had a 50% increased rate of major cardiovascular events compared with participants who didn't take NSAIDs.

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

And as it was an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. But even so, researchers say that the risk is not really justified.

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