Generally known for its broad-spectrum use over a wide range of afflictions, particularly related to pain relief, paracetamol (or Tylenol as it is known in the United States) is one of the most used forms of medicine in the world. But it turns out that a very big market segment might not find reasons to use it anymore.
According to a new and already contested study from Switzerland, arthritis pain might not be relieved by paracetamol. Also known as acetaminophen, the widely used medicine was recently found to be of no use in reducing knee or hip pain or in improving joint mobility.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
The study was led by Dr. Sven Trelle from the University of Bern, Switzerland. According to the results, the pain improvement caused by paracetamol was statistically insignificant. On the other hand, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, fare much better at short term pain relief.
The most widely used active substances in NSAIDs are ibuprofen and diclofenac, and their most common form States-wide is that of Motrin and Advil. The most effective in reducing pain and improving function of the drugs participating in the trial was, according to Trelle, diclofenac by a long shot.
Because of the numerous and dangerous side effects presented by most NSAIDs, the researchers wanted to warn people to only use them for short-term pain relief and improved mobility. The drugs increase the risk of not only developing any number of cardiovascular afflictions, but they directly raise the risk of death.
The thing is that paracetamol was being used to treat osteoarthritic conditions precisely because of the known side effects of NSAIDs. While NSAIDs are recommended for very short-term treatments, paracetamol is recommended for long-term treatment. However, the study claims that no dosage of paracetamol has any positive effect.
Meanwhile, the number one paracetamol manufacturer, Tylenol’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare, understandably disagrees with the study. They released a statement in which they said they disagree with the way the meta-analysis was performed.
Additionally, the company emphasized the fact that that the efficiency of paracetamol was backed up by over 150 studies spanning over fifty years. And unlike NSAIDs, paracetamol is usable by anyone, anytime, without risking side effects. They also brought up that NSAIDs could not be used with such preexisting conditions as gastrointestinal issues, kidney disease or cardiovascular issues (which they tend to cause themselves).
Because of the way the study was performed and because of the statement issued by McNeil, it’s impossible to know the actual facts without further studies. Until such further studies are performed, we won’t be able to determine whether the study was just an attempt of NSAID producers to cut into paracetamol’s market, or if the widely used painkiller is in fact useless for those specific conditions.
Image source: Wikimedia