Anti-inflammatory drugs may only work well if taken at the right time

A new study out of McGill University has found that anti-inflammatory drugs may only work properly if taken at the right time of the day...and, in fact, they may actively cause harm if taken at the wrong time. At the heart of the matter is the body's circadian rhythm and the processes that take place at the cellular level during different times of the day.

Inflammation plays an important role in protecting the body and helping it heal. However, there are times in which inflammation can be quite damaging rather than helpful, which is why anti-inflammatory drugs are often used following surgery or when recovering from certain injuries. When these drugs are taken may play an important role in whether they help or harm the body, according to the new study.

Study co-author Faleh Tamimi Marino explained the thought process behind the study, saying:

The destructive component of the circadian rhythm as it relates to bone healing occurs during the day, when cells known as osteoclasts break down bones. The constructive cells, known as osteoblasts that rebuild bones are active at night. By limiting the use of anti-inflammatories to the mornings and giving analgesics at night for the pain, I thought we might get better results in terms of bone healing than if anti-inflammatories are given throughout the day.

Mice were used to study the effects of anti-inflammatory drugs administered at different times of the day. These mice, all of whom had broken tibias, were split into two groups, one given the drugs in constant doses over 24 hours and the second given the drugs only in the morning, switching instead to analgesics at night.

The results, according to Faleh Tamimi, were 'as if morning anti-inflammatories and evening anti-inflammatories were two different things.' The second group of mice experienced faster, higher-quality bone healing compared to the first group; these mice also had differences in the expression of more than 500 genes linked to bone healing, according to the study.

The findings indicate that while taking anti-inflammatories in the morning may greatly help the body heal and recover from surgery and injuries, taking these same drugs at night may 'severely deter' the healing process, at least related to bones.

This is the latest study on the topic of inflammation and circadian rhythm. Past research has found that this same influence also has major effects on things like the development of circadian sleep disorders, more severe rheumatoid arthritis symptoms during certain times of the day, and more.