Report questions acetaminophen's efficacy in lower back, joint pain
- In a systematic study of 3,514 patients with lower back pain and osteoarthritis, researchers found that acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol) is no better than placebo, and is associated with side effects and serious risks.
- The research was conducted by Gustavo Machado at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia. A total of 13 previously published trials examining the safety and effectiveness of acetaminophen were included.
- The researchers also noted that there is evidence of increased risk of premature death associated with acetaminophen, as well as risk of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and kidney disease.
For several years, there has been a focus on the link between acetaminophen and liver toxicity, as well as acetaminophen-induced liver failure. However, the issue of efficacy with respect to different types of pain has not been well explored.
Dr. Machado's work has uncovered acetaminophen's lack of efficacy for addressing lower back pain and osteoarthritis—acetaminophen's use as a way to reduce fever is not in question based on this analysis. In fact, unlike NSAIDs, acetaminophen is not a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, so it makes sense that it does not sufficiently relieve inflammatory pain.
This study is important, because most patients access acetaminophen over the counter and may be making choices that are not going to adequately address their medical needs.