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Drug safety: Canadian researchers have called for diclofenac-based painkillers to be withdrawn

Researchers have called for the withdrawal of a commonly used painkiller worldwide due to an elevated risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Diclofenac is the most commonly prescribed drug as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and in Italy it is also available without a prescription.

 In 2010, nearly 17 million prescriptions were filled for NSAIDs, which are used for pain relief for their anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis, back pain, gout, headaches and aches, and fever associated with the flu. .

 According to the researchers, "NSAIDs" provide pain relief for millions of patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. Cardiovascular risk is well described, but often overlooked.

For example, diclofenac, the most commonly prescribed NSAID in Italy in 2010 under the name of Diclofenac, Dealgic, Diclofan, Declamat, Fenadol and Voltaren, is associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk of 40% (relative to no use). At high doses, the increased risk is nearly doubled. An alternative is naproxen that is only half prescribed as is often the case, it has not been associated with a higher risk at any dose. For the first time, researchers have enough data to make direct comparisons of NSAIDs to determine which are riskier and which are relatively safe.

 For example, a patient with previous heart problems, hypertension and diabetes has a probability of suffering a heart attack over 5%, while in the case of diclofenac use this risk will increase by 40%. In other words, one of these 50 patients could suffer a preventable heart attack.

According to the scientists, however, diclofenac, which is sold under many brand names, including Pennsaid and Voltaren, carries a risk of significant cardiovascular side effects nearly identical to that of Vioxx.

This drug was pulled from the market by its manufacturer, Merck, after a clinical study showed it was linked to 40% increased risk of heart attacks and brain strokes.

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco