One of the world’s most dangerous drugs is also the most frequently prescribed by doctors around the world, including the UK. The painkiller can cause heart attack and stroke, and yet doctors are prescribing it at three times the level of safer alternatives.
Diclofenac, an NSAID (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug) found in well-known brands such as Voltarol, Diclofex and Rheumatac, has a similar safety profile as Vioxx, the discredited painkiller that is suspected of causing at least 60,000 deaths.
Despite the many alarms over diclofenac, doctors continue to prescribe it in vast numbers, and it remains their most popular choice among the NSAIDs.
Researchers from the London School of Medicine discovered that prescriptions for the drug were three times greater than for a safer alternative such as naproxen.
As doctors seem unable to protect patients, the world’s drug regulators should intervene, and remove the drug from the list of approved medications, say researchers.
(Source: PLoS Medicine, 2013; 10: e1001388).