Heart risk warning over painkiller diclofenac

Pills Diclofenac is used for conditions such as headaches, back pain and arthritis

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People with heart problems have been advised to stop using one of the most commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs in the UK.

The medicines regulator said painkiller diclofenac could significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke for some patients.

The advice has been updated after a European review of the risks.

Millions of people take diclofenac for a range of conditions including headaches, back pain and arthritis.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the drug should not be used by people with serious underlying heart conditions.

People who have suffered heart failure, heart disease or a stroke should stop using it completely.

Smokers and people with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and diabetes have been advised to use the drug only after consulting their GP or pharmacist.

The MHRA said diclofenac would continue to provide safe and effective pain relief, apart from patients in certain "at risk" groups.

Dr Sarah Branch, deputy director of the MHRA's vigilance and risk management of medicines division, said: "Whilst this is a known risk and warnings have been included in patient and healthcare information for some time, this advice is now being updated."

Six million prescriptions were written for diclofenac last year and the drug is also available over the counter.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    People , please do not worry too much , these warnings as others have said were available , usually upon the release of the drug many years ago , the industry has just decided to issue a reminder and draw peoples attention , as possibly there may be situations where the information is relevant. Always discuss with your GP or other medical professional , not just the BBC news ! Pharma helps people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    54 - I'm no patent expert but I though standard practice was for companies to file a patant which grants exclusivity for a period of time to allow full exploitation of a design. When the patent expires, others may use the same formulation to lower costs for the consumer and breed competition. Surely this is a huge help to the NHS. Which we all pay for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    All medicines that are withdrawn have gone through extensive tests and research before being licensed. But it is only through time that any hazards are identified.

    Just shows how poor the regulation system is

    And shows how natural herbal remedies which have been safely used for 1000's of years have withstood the test of time without 'science'.

    And now the govt wants to ban them as well.


  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Re. Comment 29: it is widely believed that if aspirin (& paracetamol) were 'found' today, neither would be approved for use (as an over-the-counter product or a prescription-only medication) because of their poor side-effect profile & associated safety risks. Hopefully this will help put this news story into perspective; all drugs have side-effects, the risk-benefit ratio varies for each patient

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    All drugs have side effects due to that fact they are alien the your body. Take the drug you are prescribed for your condition and if there are side effects, THEN go and see your GP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    The article makes no distinction between prescription and over the counter.

    My GP prescribed diclofenac for my arthritis with Omeprazole as a mucosal protectant. These work very well at very low risk.

    If you take it over the counter, then the documentation is clear that you should not take it with these conditions, or long term without GP advice.

    So, what's new?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Often, drugs are prescribed long term when they should not be
    Many people are unaware of consequences of taking various medication long term
    As well as diclofenac causing certain issues, Ibuprofen is probably more overused/abused than diclofenac & should NOT be taken long term for all but serious health conditions as it rots the stomache

    Also NOT eating when taking medication has CONSEQUENCES

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    @49. Paladin101
    "Tomfer @ 45, it's a pretty wild assumption that latest = best!"

    Really ????? You don`t think that as with EVERYTHING that is DEVELOPED AND IMPROVED ,that pharmaceuticals are the same ??
    Many better are later developed drugs are used on a regular basis in OTHER countries to great effect,why do you think they use them ? Generic is the legalised theft of others intellectual property

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    This is proper disgraceful. People have been taking Diclofenac for a long time (including me) to cure my illness, now this has happened? And the doctors dont even tell you about these side effects and its just not Diclofenac they dont tell you the side effects of anything. They just go here you go take some tablets, you'll get better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    39 - Don't think my comment said drugs are bad, mmkay. I will take another look though. I was merely trying to point out that it seems like many drugs a discovered to be unsuitable long after release.

    Sorry if your neck hurt looking up at that one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @41. DrTeeth

    I think you will find that many if not most doctors are disillusioned ,those that actually joined for the right reasons of helping people are not allowed to and far too many others who saw it as an easy way of earning big easy money have stayed.Doctors have become "less informed" since pharma reps were stopped from updating them on latest drugs/treatments currently available .

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Wasn't tested fully then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Diclofenac is a good painkiller and treatment for people with inflammatory pain. We know that untreated/undertreated inflammatory conditions also increase the risk of heart disease. So it's about balancing the risks and the benefits, including the longterm risk of heart disease against the immediate benefit of feeling better.
    Tomfer @ 45, it's a pretty wild assumption that latest = best!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    A side effect of many NSAIDs is irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract. Some, but not all GPs currently advise us to take these drugs during, or after meals. A relative wasn't given this advice and having taken them on an empty stomach suffered from agonising heart-burn and bloating. If GPs are inconsistent in giving advice, then packets (rather than flimsy leaflets) with warnings may help?

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I don't think sweeping comments such as 'take it off the market now!' really helps matters.. I do think there is a culture in this country with all medications, to take it when it is not really necessary, placebos and such. An issue that needs conference. However, diclofenac is still an important medication for short term treatment, and should still, and is being used as such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I think THE biggest problem in the UK , is that doctors and the government are no longer acting in the patients best interest ,but instead on what THEY think can be AFFORDED ,which is seldom if ever ,best practice or treatment. Generic drugs are at LEAST 5 years old and usually more and are therefore not usually the latest and best cutting edge treatment available from the proper pharma industry .

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I see the right-wing BBC (Brash, Barmy and Conservative) is cutting anything they don't like again. All the racist stuff gets through despite that being banned according to the moderation rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    @Tim Who is in charge of prescribing medication the Dr or the Patient. Get real.


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