Coronavirus: Paracetamol 'superior' to ibuprofen says expert
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Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Its universality suggests the drug is safe and effective when taken at the correct dose. But evidence is growing that chronic use of the pills could pave the way to dire health outcomes. According to recent findings, the drug may be linked to deadly kidney cancer.
There is a general consensus however that NSAIDs in small doses are effective so long as the heart, kidneys and gut are in good condition.
Over-dosing carries the risk of severe damage to the liver, which can sometimes lead to transplant or death.
This occurs when the pill is broken down before it’s eliminated in the urine when it can be converted into a toxic byproduct.
The findings of a recent meta-analysis have suggested paracetamol may also be linked to fatal kidney cancer.
READ MORE: Paracetamol side effects: Is it okay to take paracetamol daily?
Rebecca E. Graff, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, told Healio: “Data have demonstrated an association between the [drug] and an increased risk for renal cell carcinoma, with other data have not demonstrated a relationship.
“We have the opportunity to further explore the potential associated in three prospective cohorts with longitudinal data on the use of aspirin, non-aspirin NSAIDs and acetaminophen.
“Given that these analgesics are the most consumed over-the-counter drugs worldwide, it is important that we understand all their risks and benefits.”
The researchers assessed the association between acetaminophen and the incidence of total and fatal renal cell carcinoma using data available from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses Health Study.
A total of 796 cases of renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer, were identified.
The findings, presented during the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, showed that use of acetaminophen use among men positively correlated with fatal kidney cancer.
The authors noted: “Analgesics may operate differently in the setting of renal cell carcinoma from the context of other chronic diseases.
“Considerable evidence suggests a beneficial effect of analgesics and especially aspirin on cardiovascular disease and it is important that patients understand the risks and benefits.”
The findings are consistent with previous research that’s shown long-term, and regular use of non-aspirin anti-inflammation painkillers can raise the likelihood of developing kidney cancer by more than 50 percent.
These early results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggested men and women who take the drugs are equally at risk.
Previous research has also raised concerns over the drug’s effects on the heart, with some findings highlighting a 50 percent increased risk of heart attack among users after just one week.
How to take paracetamol safely
According to WebMD, acetaminophen is used to treat mild to moderate pain and reduce fever.
It is effective in the treatment of headaches, menstrual periods, toothaches, backaches, osteoarthritis or flu/aches and pain.
There are many brands and forms of the drug, and dosing instructions vary largely for each product depending on concentrations.
Adhering to the correct dose is imperative, as stronger painkillers such as codeine and morphine are considered highly addictive.
Individuals who struggle with chronic pain are advised to consult their GP for guidance.
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