Paracetamol was never a systematic review of the evidence for the drug's usage to treat low back pain, confirmed after 13 clinical trials...
The commonly used pain killer Paracetamol is ineffective at treating low back pain, according to a new Australian study, which cautions that the drug’s regular use could harm the liver.
The study published in the British Medical Journal, after 13 clinical trials on paracetamol found that there was never a systematic review of the evidence for the drug’s usage to treat low back pain.
“Paracetamol has been widely recommended as being a safe medication, but what we are saying now is that paracetamol doesn’t bring any benefit for patients with back pain, and it brings only trivial benefits to those with osteoarthritis,” said Gustavo Machado of The George Institute for Global Health of the University of Sydney.
“In addition to that it might bring harm to those patients” he was quoted as saying by the ABC.
Machado and his team of researchers analysed three clinical trials and confirmed that paracetamol is no better than placebo at treating low back pain.
An analysis of 10 other clinical trials by the researchers quantified for the first time the effect paracetamol has on reducing pain from osteoarthritis in the knee and hip.
“We concluded that it is too small to be clinically worthwhile,” Machado said, adding that effects of paracetamol on the human body are not well understood, and just because it can stop headaches, it doesn’t mean the drug will work in all circumstances.
“There is probably a difference in the pain mechanisms in low back pain and osteoarthritis, compared to headache,” Machado said.
The study also claimed that patients using paracetamol for low back pain, and osteoarthritis were nearly four times more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests than those taking placebo.
He said it was unclear whether this meant paracetamol could cause liver damage in the long term.
“But if you see elevation of enzymes in the short term, it’s a concern for the long term,” Machado said.
Researchers also cited another recent study suggesting paracetamol raises the risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and renal disease.
They suggested that doctors should reconsider their recommendation that patients use the drug for low back pain and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.
“A clinician should weigh benefits and harms when they prescribe any drug, and if that drug is not providing any benefit and it has the potential of doing harm it shouldn’t be recommended,” Machado said.