A new study warns that a popular NSAID pain reliever called diclofenac has been associated with an increased risk of serious heart health issues, including heart attacks. The medication is currently available as an over the counter painkiller, which means it can be purchased without a prescription. Some researchers suggest the risk means the drug should only be available as a prescription.
The study, which comes out of Denmark’s Aarhus University Hospital, looked at the data of adults who took prescriptions continuously for at least one year. The individuals factored into the study had an average age of mid-40s and were split into low-to-high groups based on their baseline cardiovascular health risk.
The researchers worked to assess the cardiac risk associated with diclofenac in individuals who weren’t taking any NSAIDs, who had started taking other common NSAID pain relievers, and who were taking paracetamol (acetaminophen), commonly sold under the brand name Tylenol.
The study ran from 1996 to 2016, during which time researchers found that starting diclofenac use caused an increased risk of serious cardiac events taking place within 30 days of starting the substance; this compared to taking other common NSAIDs or acetaminophen.
The major issues included instances of heart attack, irregular heart beats, stroke, heart failure, and flutters. Compared to taking no NSAID painkillers, taking diclofenac was linked to an increase in heart-related deaths; risk was found even at low dose across all ages and genders. The overall risk for each individual patient, though, was found to be low.