'Little justification' for prescribing diclofenac, researchers warn

Woman taking tablets

GETTY ADVICE Patients are advised not to use these painkillers if they are in an"at risk group

"Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs", the study concluded.

A review by European health officials confirmed the finding, and said patients should no longer use diclofenac if they have a heart condition, or have previously suffered heart attacks or strokes.

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.

They said in the paper: 'Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects.

Researchers analysed the cardiovascular risks that come with diclofenac compared with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

When all these simulated trials was averaged out, people who took diclofenac were 50 per cent more likely to have cardiovascular problems in the first 30 days after use than were people who took nothing.

Diclofenac, a widely used worldwide drug with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious cardiovascular problems, so its use should be done with moderation rather than for a long time.

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Ever since then, medical researchers have remained on high alert; wondering if any other drugs in this class - which includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) - should be abandoned due to their cardiovascular risks.

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

They found an increased rate of major adverse cardiovascular events within 30 days compared with starting other traditional NSAID or starting paracetamol.

Researchers found that the increased risks applied to men and women of all ages and also those taking low doses of diclofenac.

More specifically, diclofenac initiators had a 50% increased rate of major cardiovascular events compared with participants who didn't take NSAIDs. The researchers add that while the relative risk for heart issues was seen to increase, the absolute risk for patients stayed low.

Diclofenac is a traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for treating pain and inflammation and is widely used across the world. For people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, that number would shoot up to 40, with half dying. 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.

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