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Paracetamol not much more effective than placebo

One of Australia's most popular painkillers is next to useless for a wide range of conditions, study finds

  • Australian researchers have found paracetamol is only effective in some cases
  • Paracetamol was tested against placebo and often was not more effective
  • Of 44 painful conditions there was strong to moderate evidence in four cases   
  • Those cases were: knee and hip osteoarthritis, tension headaches, perineal pain 
  • There was high quality evidence that said the drug did not help lower back pain 

Australian researchers have found that paracetamol is only slightly more effective at reducing pain than placebo pills for the majority of ailments. 

A report published by the Medical Journal of Australia tested the effectiveness of paracetamol tablets against placebo pills and the popular painkiller came up short.

Despite being the most popular painkiller in the world, the report suggests paracetamol is more effective than a placebo in only a small number of cases. 

The researchers tested paracetamol and dummy pills on people suffering from a wide range of painful conditions. 

The report found that paracetamol recorded strong or moderate effects when it was used to treat just four painful conditions

Australian researchers found strong or moderate evidence that paracetamol was superior to placebo when it was used to treat just four out of 44 conditions, including knee and hip osteoarthritis, craniotomy, tension headaches and perineal pain.   

'For most conditions, evidence regarding the effectiveness of paracetamol is insufficient for drawing firm conclusions,' authors said. 

Paracetamol is widely used for lower back pain but the report said that the drug did not improve the condition. 

The report found paracetamol is not effective at treating lower back pain

'There is high quality evidence that paracetamol is not effective for relieving acute low back pain,' authors reported. 

Low-quality evidence supported paracetamol's effectiveness over the dummy pills in 11 ailments including dental procedures, major surgery including gynaecological and orthopaedic surgery, acute migraine in adults and common cold headaches.

There was inconclusive evidence on the efficacy of paracetamol over placebo pills in 17 different conditions including chronic lower back pain, post‐caesarean delivery pain, rheumatoid arthritis, hip fractures and cardiac surgery. 

The study's lead author, Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed, of the University of Sydney, said the drug was considered a very safe medicine at recommended doses, the Daily Telegraph reported

'If it appears to be working for them, and they notice the pain is noticeably worse if it's not used, then they can continue to use paracetamol within the recommended daily dose,' she told the Daily Telegraph.

'However, people should not use paracetamol for more than a few days at a time unless specifically advised to by a doctor or pharmacist,' Dr Abdel Shaheed said. 

Those with spinal pain or osteoarthritis who received repeated does of paracetamol were found to have elevated blood liver enzymes 

Article Retrieved from Daily Mail Australia
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