The team examined 10 years of national registry data for 6.3 million adults with at least one year of prescription records before the decade under scrutiny began.
'It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use.
"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects", they wrote.
The study explored the cardiovascular risk of one prescription drug Diclofenac and found it can cause serious problems for heart patients if taken for an extended period of time. According to Daily Mail, many parts of the world - including the United Kingdom - have banned diclofenac as an over-the-counter medication because of its adverse effects on the cardiovascular system.
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A widely used analgesic appears to be associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events such as strokes. Current concerns about the cardiovascular safety of NSAID use mean that such a trial would now be unethical, but regulators including the European Medicines Agency are still calling for the safety of diclofenac to be assessed.
The researchers said that given the risks, doctors should be initiating treatment where indicated with other types of NSAIDs before considering diclofenac. Then they used this data to emulate hundreds of clinical trials at once.
The report, which was conducted by researcher Morten Schmidt at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, concludes that patients should try out other NSAIDs before taking pills containing diclofenac as a last resort.
The overall patient population included 1,370,832 diclofenac initiators who met the inclusion criteria, 3,878,454 ibuprofen initiators, 291,490 naproxen initiators, 764,781 matched paracetamol initiators, and 1,303,209 matched non-initiators (patients who took none of the painkillers during the study period). The average age of participants was 46-49 years among those beginning NSAIDs and 56 years among those starting paracetamol.
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Researchers have found that diclofenac is associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
Both men and women were at higher risk for heart problems, as were those taking low doses of the drug.
Furthermore, a connection between taking diclofenac and the increased rate of upper gastrointestinal bleeding and cardiac death was found. The researchers add that while the relative risk for heart issues was seen to increase, the absolute risk for patients stayed low.
As it is used mostly to treat inflammations and pains, diclofenac, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, also known as NSAID, is broadly consumed all over the world.
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