Popular painkiller could cause serious heart issues — 5 study findings

Patients treated with diclofenac experienced a greater risk of heart problems than patients treated with paracetamol or other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to a study published in the BMJ.

Researchers studied the medical records of more than 6 million Danish adults from 1996 to 2016, used the data to emulate hundreds of clinical trials and took the average of the simulated trials, Gizmodo reports.

Here are five findings:

1. Patients who took diclofenac — the most commonly used NSAID worldwide — were 50 percent more likely to have heart issues in the first 30 days after use than people who took nothing.

2. Diclofenac users were about two times as likely to develop problems than people who took other NSAIDs, acetaminophen or nothing.

3. Diclofenac even increased risk in patients who took a lower dose and those who had a low risk of cardiovascular disease.

4. Diclofenac was associated with a higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding compared to most other NSAIDs and acetaminophen.

5. Researchers estimated four diclofenac users out of 1,000 would develop a major health problem within a year of taking the drug, and one would die. The number expected to experience issues increased 10-fold for people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, with 20 estimated fatalities.

"It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use. Diclofenac should not be available over the counter, and when prescribed, should be accompanied by an appropriate front package warning about its potential risks," study authors concluded.

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