Paracetamol Considered Ineffective For Lower Back Pain, Researchers Say


IN PHOTO: A box of Panadol pain relief tablets is seen at a pharmacy in a photo illustration in London July 24, 2013. British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, rocked by charges of corruption in China, is expected to try and reassure investors about its business prospects when it reports quarterly results. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that paracetamol is an ineffective treatment for lower back pain. Research also found that the drug brings little benefits to osteoarthritic patients.

The study was performed by researchers from different universities in Australia namely, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney and University of Newcastle. Researchers performed 13 randomised controlled studies on the drug involving more than 5,000 participants to assess the effects of using paracetamol compared to a placebo. The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

“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 from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney.

While the study concludes the ineffectiveness of the drug in treating lower back pain, no studies were performed to investigate its effect on neck pain. In addition, the study shows that liver effects are more likely in patients using paracetamol for low back pain and osteoarthritis. The results have prompted to call the attention of health practitioners regarding the proper prescription of the drug.

Back pain, together with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, are conditions causing disability worldwide, with paracetamol as the drug of choice for treatment. The study aims to call on doctors to rethink about promoting paracetamol as the first-line treatment. “Our results therefore provide an argument to reconsider the endorsement of paracetamol in clinical practice guidelines for low back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis,” researchers said.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or Nice, currently recommends the use of paracetamol for the said condition. However, the guidelines on paracetamol use set by Nice are now going through a review due to the recent findings.