NSAIDS::The risks outweigh the benefits for osteoarthritis sufferers

Most osteoarthritis sufferers are still on long-term therapy either with one of the painkilling NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) or a COX-2, even though several drugs in both groups have already been banned, and there is growing concern about the rest.
So no doubt assuming the patients’ doctors don’t read the newspapers or watch television, a research team from the University of Bergen in Norway decided to set about their own study to discover if standard arthritis care is justified – and safe.
They carried out a meta-analysis where they re-analysed the findings from 23 earlier studies, which involved 10,845 patients, of whom 7,807 were taking an NSAID and 3,038 had been given a placebo.
The good news was that the NSAIDs were able to reduce pain in the immediate term – that is, straightaway. By using a pain measurement scale, most patients reported a 15 per cent reduction in paid after taking one of the drugs compared with those who had been given a placebo.
But overall, and over longer periods, the pain reduction decreased significantly and, on average, the NSAID patient was reporting an improvement that was measured as just 0.32 times better than placebo. As researchers might put it, this sort of improvement is ‘clinically insignificant’, which means that a variable that slight could be affected by many other factors.
But set that marginal benefit against the far likelier chances of a side effect to the NSAID, such as high blood pressure leading to congestive heart failure, and it doesn’t take a research physicist to conclude that it isn’t worth the risk – which happens to be the conclusion of the Bergen research team.
So what to do instead? Anybody see our story the other week about acupuncture being an effective pain reliever for osteoarthritis sufferers? Just a thought.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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