Painkiller linked to increased risk of heart problems

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'Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs, ' they said in a statement.

A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology focusing on 57,000 people residing in Taiwan also found that taking painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen could be linked to having an irregular heartbeat. 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.

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.

Diclofenac is a medicine that belongs to the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and is used to treat pain and inflammation in many countries of the world (Greece is available only from pharmacies and is not prescribed).

Dr Schmidt and colleagues took a different approach by analysing national registry data for more than 6.3 million middle aged adults in Denmark.

More clear warnings should be given about the risks of diclofenac, say researchers who found a higher risk of heart attack and stroke associated with its use.

Diclofenac is a component which is frequently found in painkillers which are usually used to alleviate back pain, arthritis, and sciatica.

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be of value to some patients to improve their quality of life despite possible side effects". Compared with taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, taking diclofenac raised cardiovascular risk by 20 percent.

"After taking account of potentially influential factors, starting diclofenac during the study period was associated with an increased rate of major adverse cardiovascular events within 30 days compared with starting other traditional NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen) or starting paracetamol".

"While NSAID use previously was considered risk-neutral in short treatment periods and low doses, the risks were apparent even within 30 days and also for low doses of diclofenac".

However, while the relative risk increased, the absolute one remained low for the individual patient.

The study also relies on observational data, so it can't directly prove that diclofenac is causing problems. The problems included cardiac arrhythmia, heart failure, ischemic stroke, stroke, premature death of cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal haemorrhage.

It's always important to discuss medication and the potential risks it will have on your health with a GP or health professional.

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