Common painkiller poses risk to heart health

One of the world's most-used painkillers, diclofenac, the active component in Difene, has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in a major study published on Wednesday morning.

The risk was apparent for both men and women of all ages and with low doses of diclofenac, the study in the BMJ reported. "Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs", the study concluded.

"It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use", the authors wrote.

Are you anxious the medication you take could be impacting your overall health negatively? Scientists came to the conclusion that Diclofenac has a direct impact on the education of cardiovascular diseases, including ischemic stroke, arrhythmia, heart attack and others.

Diclofenac is a NSAID used for treatment of pain and inflammation with the brand names Voltaren, Cataflam and Zipsor.

It is widely used to treat a range of conditions including headaches, back pain, arthritis and flu.

The research team, led by Dr Morten Schmidt from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark examined starting the use of the drug compared with no NSAIDS, beginning the use paracetamol and starting other traditional NSAID drugs.

Diclofenac was associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiac events such as irregular heartbeat or flutter, ischaemic stroke, heart failure, and heart attack. Eligible individuals were at least 18 years of age and had at least a year of continuous prescription records before the date of the study start in 1996.

However, its cardiovascular risks compared with those of other traditional NSAIDs have never been examined in large randomised controlled trials, researchers said. It finds an "increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events" compared with use of paracetamol, other painkillers or none at all. 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.

Starting diclofenac was also associated with an increased rate of cardiac death compared with no NSAIDs, and an increased risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding compared with no NSAIDs, starting ibuprofen or paracetamol, but not with naproxen. Some researchers suggest the risk means the drug should only be available as a prescription. The researchers add that while the relative risk for heart issues was seen to increase, the absolute risk for patients stayed low.

The study also relies on observational data, so it can't directly prove that diclofenac is causing problems.

The authors say their results also indicate that using diclofenac as a reference for demonstrating the safety of selective COX-2 inhibitors represents "a potential flaw in safety trials".

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