Study Links Paracetamol To Heart Attacks and Early Death
Paracetamol is reached for by many for a variety of aches and pains. It is the UK’s most commonly used painkiller and is generally considered to be safe for regular use. Every year, it is prescribed 22.5 million times and 200 million packets are bought over the counter. Now questions have arisen about whether or not serious health conditions and early death should be considered paracetamol risks.
The Research Which Has Caused Concern
Researchers at the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, led by Philip Conaghan, examined information from eight studies on patients who were taking paracetamol daily for up to fourteen years. These studies involved 660,000 patients altogether and the information gathered from this substantial sample led the researchers to believe that paracetamol could be disrupting the action of an enzyme called COX-2. They found that patients taking high doses of paracetamol for long periods were up to 63% more likely to die unexpectedly, 68% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, and 50% more likely to suffer from a stomach ulcer or bleeding.
Professor Conaghan has admitted that the study could not conclusively reveal whether paracetamol increased the average person’s risk of a heart attack or unexpected death because of other significant factors to be taken into consideration. For example, those who were prescribed the painkiller for so long were likely to have health problems which could account for their early deaths, making it difficult to determine the extent to which paracetamol played a role. However, the professor does believe that the drug’s potential side effects need to be more thoroughly explored.
“I am a bit worried that paracetamol at high dose for long periods could be associated with side effects that we hadn’t previously associated,” he says.
Assurance That Paracetamol Is Safe
Meanwhile, other scientists are not convinced that paracetamol poses any serious risks.
“Based on this study, the risk is minimal. Paracetamol remains the safest analgesic available and the study should not stop people taking it,” says Professor Nick Bateman, specialist in clinical toxicology at the University of Edinburgh. “Based on these results, the lowest effective dose for the shortest necessary period is advised; this is common sense for all medicines.”