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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

Paracetamol no better than a placebo for arthritis pain
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Paracetamol no better than a placebo for arthritis pain image

Osteoarthritis sufferers often reach for the paracetamol to reduce the pain or help improve movement—but a major new study has discovered the painkiller doesn’t work, and any benefits are in the mind of the sufferer.

Paracetamol is often the first drug given for osteoarthritis when the pain is mild or moderate, but despite its widespread use, it has “has no role in the treatment of osteoarthritis”, say the researchers.

It has also been considered safer to take longer-term as it doesn’t come with the side effects associated with the NSAID (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug) painkillers, which include gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems.

But when researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland reviewed the use of paracetamol against seven different NSAIDs, they discovered that its effects were little better than a placebo, or sugar pill. The most effective painkiller was the NSAID Diclofenac, at 150mg a day, but the researchers warn against using it for long periods because of its potential for life-threatening side effects.

They reviewed the effectiveness of paracetamol when they analysed the results from 74 trials between 1980 and 2015, which had involved 58,556 patients. Various doses of paracetamol were tested against seven different NSAIDs.


References

(Source: The Lancer, 2016; doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30002-2)

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