Researchers say one of the world’s most widely used pain relievers should be pulled from the market because it raises the risk of a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems
Diclofenac is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the painkiller Vioxx, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. Vioxx was pulled from world markets by its manufacturer in 2004.
“Given the availability of safer alternatives, diclofenac should be de-listed from national essential medicines lists,” said David Henry of the University of Toronto in Canada. Henry estimates it raises the risk of a heart attack by 40 percent.
“Clearly thousands of people die as a result of using [diclofenac],” Henry told the Canadian Press. “But these are invisible victims. And therefore, there’s no advocacy lobby group on their behalf.”
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and is sold under such brand names as Voltaren and Cambia. It is most commonly used to treat arthritis and migraines. Although not widely sold in the U.S., it is the most popular NSAID in the world, outselling ibuprofen and naproxen.
Diclofenac has no advantage in terms of gastrointestinal safety and it has a clear cardiovascular disadvantage,” says Patricia McGettigan of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. “There are strong arguments to revoke its marketing authorizations globally.”
Earlier studies have shown that diclofenac raises the risk of a cardiovascular event, but that hasn’t led to a reduction in its use, particularly in low income countries.
“These findings have important implications for public health and, given the wide availability of safer alternatives, the researchers suggest that diclofenac should be removed from national EMLs (essential medicine lists) and that its marketing authorizations should be revoked globally,” the study says.
The researchers have petitioned the World Health Organization to list naproxen as the preferred NSAID, because of its safer cardiovascular profile.