Painkillers May Kill

by Michael Brennan, MD

News Services, August 7, 1984, Montreal -- Prescription painkillers killed 42 Canadians since 1980 - 10 in the first five months of this year - and doctors warn the problem may be more sweeping than AIDS.

At issue is a class of about 40 drugs known as NSAIDs, an acronym for nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, widely prescribed for the treatment of arthritic and other pains.

Dr. Michael Brennan, a member of the Ontario Medical Association's committee on drugs and pharmacotherapy, says evidence indicates "we are probably looking at a major health problem in this country, even greater than AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome)."

The Canadian medical Association Journal says NSAID use has reached "almost incredible" proportions, and the Ontario association says the deaths so far are "merely the tip of the iceberg."

NSAIDs, available only on prescription, are primarily to treat muscular and joint disorders, especially arthritis. They have also been prescribed for patients suffering from menstrual pain, sports injuries and self-limiting, relatively mild pain,

Brennan said NSAIDs can be beneficial to many patients, but the problem is "people are often not being given a proper trial with Aspirin."

Prepared by Ricardo B. Serrano, DAc, MH, ADS
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