Popular NSAID pain reliever linked to serious heart health risk

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To conduct this study, the researchers utilized the national registry data containing details on the 6.3 million adults residing in Denmark. 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. Their average age was 46-49 for those starting on NSAIDs and 56 for those starting on paracetamol.

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).

The new study, however, examined this common painkiller's negative impact on the circulatory system and found out that this drug is indeed increasing the risks of cardiovascular conditions, heart attack and stroke included, as reported by the leading author Morten Schmidt at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

Diclofenac initiators were also at 20% increased risk compared to patients taking ibuprofen or paracetamol, and at 30% increased risk compared to those taking naproxen.

Potential influencing factors were taken into consideration, and the researchers found that starting diclofenac during the study period (1996-2016) resulted in an increased rate of major adverse cardiovascular events within 30 days compared with starting other traditional NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen) or starting paracetamol. Still, authors said other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be considered before the use of Diclofenac.

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.

Both men and women were at higher risk for heart problems, as were those taking low doses of the drug.

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Diclofenac, marketed as Voltarol in the United Kingdom, has been linked with heart failure and irregular heartbeats, and has recently been withdrawn from sales over the counter in the United Kingdom due to concerns about side effects.

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

The cardiovascular threat also increased with the risk at baseline.

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

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

Also, it's important to note that this is an observational study, so no cause-effect relationship was established.