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Study: Tylenol May Not Help Your Osteoarthritis Pain

Pain - Osteoarthritis

Tylenol is one of the most popular and doctor recommended, over-the-counter pain medication brands on the market, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll help you resolve any ailment you may have.

According to a new study conducted by the University of Bern in Switzerland, acetaminophen (better known to many as Tylenol) shouldn’t be your medication of choice if you’re looking to relieve pain caused by osteoarthritis, or improve joint functionality.

Rather, researchers said that those with osteoporosis should stick with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (aka Advil, Motrin) or diclofenac. Additionally, those behind the study suggested that acetaminophen is only marginally better for osteoporosis sufferers than a placebo.

Osteoarthritis is said to be a leading cause of pain in older adults. The ailment can slow down a person’s physical activities, thus increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and overall decreased health.

“Regardless of dose, the prescription drug diclofenac is the most effective drug among painkillers in terms of improving pain and function in osteoarthritis,” said lead researcher Dr. Sven Trelle.

He added: “If you are thinking of using a painkiller for osteoarthritis, you should consider diclofenac, but also keep in mind that like most NSAIDs, the drug increases the risk for heart disease and death.”

Ask Dr. Zach - Osteoarthritis

Of course, Tylenol manufacturer McNeil Consumer Healthcare did not take kindly to the study’s results, stating: “We disagree with the authors’ interpretation of this meta-analysis and believe acetaminophen remains an important pain relief option for millions of consumers, particularly those with certain conditions for which NSAIDs may not be appropriate—including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, and renal [kidney] disease. The safety and efficacy profile of acetaminophen is supported by more than 150 studies over the past 50 years.”

The University of Bern used 74 trials published between 1980 and 2015 for its research. In all, more than 58,000 patients participated in said trials.

Dr. Nicholas Moore, a member of the department of pharmacology at the University of Bordeaux in France, went one step further when discussing flaws found in acetaminophen.

“Acetaminophen may not be as safe as most people would believe: it is known to be toxic to the liver, and acetaminophen overdose is a leading cause of liver transplantation,” offered Moore. “NSAIDs are much more effective painkillers, and avoiding them puts patients at risk of overdosing with acetaminophen.”

Continued Moore: “We should look also at older drugs that may have been discarded, and perhaps work more to understand the mechanism of action of acetaminophen to develop a new, more effective and less toxic drug of the same class, or develop new classes of painkillers.”

Of course, this is just one of many studies out there that debates the merit of certain medications. Be sure to speak with your doctor before deciding which medication to take, or to part with a medication you’re already taking.

Ask Dr. Zach - Feature ImageIf you’re interested in more health advice and insights like this, please tune in on Friday afternoons at 3 & 3:30pm ET/Noon & 12:30pm PT (beginning April 8) for back-to-back episodes of our brand new series, Ask Dr. Zach

In each episode of Ask Dr. Zach, people with health concerns related to themselves, or those close to them, are able to receive one-on-one medical expertise from a knowledgeable and caring doctor that has seen it all. No question is too big, no question is too small. 

This Week’s Episodes!

Friday, April 15 at 3pm ET/Noon PT: Dr. Zach helps one patient with arthritis related to thumb inflexibility. Another patient receives advice about how to treat dry eyes.

Friday, April 8 at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT:Unable to walk because of arthritis in her knees, 57-year-old Christine sits down with Dr. Zach for some invaluable medical advice to improve her mobility issues.

-Adam Grant

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