A new study has revealed that chronic paracetamol users, people who typically take large, daily doses over several years, may increase their risk of death, or kidney, intestinal and heart problems; and doctors may be under-estimating the risks to patients from long-term use of paracetamol.
The research team analyzed data from eight previously-published studies into long-term paracetamol use. The data came only from people who had paracetamol prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to over-the-counter purchases.
Two of the eight studies had found a 63 percent increased risk of mortality among long-term paracetamol users, compared to those who had not been prescribed the drug during the study period. Four studies found a heightened risk, ranging from 19 to 68 percent, of cardiovascular problems. The risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and other intestinal side-effects was up to 49 percent as high. Three studies found chronic paracetamol use had an adverse effect on kidneys. Researchers found that in all cases, the risk was dose-dependent, in other words, the higher the dose, the greater the risk.
"Even though the risk in absolute terms was small, doctors should think carefully when prescribing the drug. Doctors need to be aware of patients' individual responses to paracetamol and the observed increased toxicity with regular and higher dosing," said the report.
The analysis was published in the British journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.