Taking paracetamol for pain relief poses numerous health risks long-term, a study suggests.
According to researchers, people who take large amounts or daily doses of the pain-killer in the span of several years may increase their risks of heart, intestinal and kidney problems.
A team led by Philip Conaghan at the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Medicine in the United Kingdom analyzed previously-published studies of the effects of the long-term use of paracetamol.
Four studies found a heightened risk of cardiovascular problems. Another four found an increased risk for malfunctioning kidneys in long-term paracetamol users than non-users. One study found that the risk for gastro-intestinal bleeding and other intestinal side-effects was up by 49 percent.
The study also found that paracetamol may not, in fact, be effective against osteoarthritis, joint pain and acute lower-back pain.
“We believe the true risk of paracetamol prescription to be higher than that currently perceived in the clinical community,” the researchers concluded.
The maximum dose is two 500mg tablets four times a day, but many patients ignore this. “Given its high usage and availability as an over-the-counter analgesic (painkiller), a systematic review of paracetamol’s efficacy and tolerability in individual conditions is warranted,” they added.
Other experts, however, cautioned against over-reaction.More studies are needed as the analysis was unable to tell whether the health problems were caused by an underlying illness instead of the drug, suggested experts.
Nick Bateman, a professor of clinical toxicology, said “Paracetamol remains the safest analgesic available, and this study should not stop [you from] taking it.”
“Based on the results, the lowest effective dose for the shortest necessary period is advised,” he added.
Sources: March 3, 2015. "Paracetamol should come with warnings about possible long-term health risks, say scientists". independent.co.uk March 3, 2015. "Paracetamol linked to heart attack risk: Fears over high doses taken for a long time". dailymail.co.uk March 4, 2015. "Long-term paracetamol use poses risk, says study". gmanetwork.com
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