'Little justification' for prescribing diclofenac, researchers warn

Painkiller tablets

GETTY WARNING A study has linked a common painkiller with'major cardiovascular events

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

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects", they write.

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. 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. But given other research showing a similar heightened risk, the authors say it's clear that diclofenac needs to be more carefully handled, if not phased out of use completely. Current concerns about the cardiovascular safety of NSAID use mean that such a trial would now be unethical, but regulators including the European Medicines Agency are still calling for the safety of diclofenac to be assessed. 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.

For example, they looked at people who reported taking diclofenac in 1996, then tracked their health for the next 12 months, while comparing them to people who either took other NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or nothing at all. The study included more than 1.37 million diclofenac users, 3.87 million taking ibuprofen, 291,490 using naproxen, 764,781 paracetamol users and 1.3 million using no pain relievers.

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.

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Controversial pill diclofenac also increases rates of heart failure and irregular heartbeat or flutter among men and women of all ages, according to the study. 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. On the other hand, paracetamol, another common painkiller, as well as ibuprofen, showed reduced risks of heart problems, compared with diclofenac.

Rates rose by 50 percent after 30 days among patients taking diclofenac.

However, researchers point out that, while the relative risk increased significantly, the overall risk was still pretty small.

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.

For years, however, doctors have been anxious about diclofenac's potential heart risks. They are now advocating that low dose ibuprofen or naproxen should be considered as comparators.

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