Researchers have warned that a common painkiller used all around the world could actually increase the risk of heart issues when compared to other painkillers.
Diclofenac, commonly referred to by the brand name Voltaren, can increase the risk of not only heart attacks, but other cardiovascular events such as stroke. The research, published in the BMJ journal by Danish and US researchers, found the risk impacted both men and women of all ages – even when they used the drug at low levels.
They study also found that when compared to paracetamol or other traditional painkillers, the risk of major cardiovascular events increased. Researchers have gone as far to say that Diclofenac shouldn’t be available to customers over the counter and that when prescribed, it should be accompanied by a warning on the front of the package detailing the potential risks.
The medication is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is most commonly used to treat pain and inflammation. Researchers noted there hadn’t been large randomised controlled trials when it came to the cardiovascular risks associated with Diclofenac, so a team from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark compared the risks associated with both Diclofenac and other painkillers.
Through an observational study drawing from more than 6.3 million adults in Denmark between 1996 and 2016, researchers noted an increased rate of major adverse cardiovascular events within 30 days when people took Diclofenac. In contrast, they didn’t see similar results in people who used ibuprofen, naproxen or paracetamol.
Researchers explained that irregular heart beats, heart flutters, ischaemic stroke, heart failure and heart attacks were potential cardiovascular events that could occur when taking Diclofenac. use of the drug was also linked to an increased rate of cardiac death compared to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers.
Researchers also discovered that while there is a relative risk increase, the absolute risk remained low for each individual. Still, authors said other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be considered before the use of Diclofenac.
“Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects,” the study authors said in a statement. “Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs.”
The latest research comes a year after a decade-long Danish study found ibuprofen, commonly sold as Nurofen and Advil, had been associated with a 31 per cent increased risk of cardiac arrest.
That study, published in the European Heart Journal, also found that the risk of cardiac arrest was greatest among those who used diclofenac (51 per cent), compared to ibuprofen’s 31 per cent increased risk.
It’s always important to discuss medication and the potential risks it will have on your health with a GP or health professional.