Avoid this painkiller that increases heart risk, researchers warn

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Avoid this painkiller that increases heart risk, researchers warn image

There are plenty of painkillers you can buy in the pharmacy—so make sure it's not diclofenac, marketed as Cataflam and Voltaren. The drug increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, researchers have discovered this week.

Diclofenac is widely used to treat pain and inflammation, and people can buy it without a prescription—but it dramatically increases the risk of a 'major heart event' within 30 days of starting the drug. Reactions have included a sudden irregular heart beat or flutter, stroke, heart failure and heart attack.


The risks were compared to other NSAID (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug) painkillers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and paracetamol. More severe reactions—including fatal heart attacks—were also more common when compared against people who weren't taking any painkillers.

Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark studied the drug's use among 6.3 million people, with an average age of between 46 and 49, who were put into one of three categories for heart risk. But people in every group saw their risk of a major heart problem increase when they took diclofenac.

The researchers say the study is 'observational', which means it cannot absolutely prove that the drug definitely increases the risk—but with so many options on the market, why even chance it?

(Source: BMJ, 2018; k3426)

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