OTC Pain Med May Not Offer Relief from Back Pain, Arthritis

OTC Pain Med May Not Offer Relief
OTC Pain Med May Not Offer Relief

(HealthDay News) — Acetaminophen does not appear to help ease lower back pain and offers little relief for the most common form of arthritis, according to a new report. The findings were published March 31 in The BMJ.

The researchers analyzed 10 studies that examined the use of acetaminophen to treat osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, and three studies that assessed the use of the drug for lower back pain. Looking at the pooled data, the investigators found that for people with lower back pain, acetaminophen was ineffective in either reducing patient disability or enhancing quality of life. In people with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, acetaminophen provided only a small, not clinically important benefit in the reduction of pain and disability.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the maker of Tylenol, countered that acetaminophen has a long history of effectiveness. In a statement, the company said that before clinical guidelines are changed, "it is important to comprehensively look at the body of evidence. The safety and efficacy profile of acetaminophen is supported by more than 150 studies over the past 50 years."

In an accompanying journal editorial, Christian Mallen, BMBS, PhD, and Elaine Hay, MB, ChB, of Keele University in the United Kingdom, wrote that the study "reopens the debate" about the effectiveness and safety of acetaminophen. However, they said that if acetaminophen was removed from existing treatment guidelines for lower back pain and arthritis, there could be an increase in the use of other drugs, such as narcotics.

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