Painkillers used millions of times do not work better than placebo
For back pain or lumbago, doctors around the world usually prescribe acetaminophen. But now Australian researchers from the University of Sydney have found that the pain reliever appears to be ineffective in these cases - and does not relieve lower back pain better than placebo tablets.
Paracetamol has been on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977. If you go to the doctor with low back pain or a lumbago, you can count on the doctor to prescribe the pain-relieving and antipyretic drug “paracetamol”. In addition to medicines containing acetylsalicylic acid (short: ASS) or ibuprofen, it has been one of the most common pain relievers (analgesics) in the world since its introduction in the 1950s and has even been on the “Model List of Essential Medicines” since 1977 World Health Organization (WHO). But does acetaminophen also help with back problems? Apparently, as Christopher Williams of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney and his colleagues have now found, not. The researchers are instead part of a large-scale Australian study came to the conclusion that lower back pain decreased on average after 17 days - regardless of whether paracetamol was used or not.
Taking painkillers has no positive effect on the recovery time. For their project, the scientists examined 1,652 patients aged 45 years and older who suffered from low back pain. A third of the subjects with strong symptoms received paracetamol three times a day (3990 mg per day in total) for up to four weeks, whereas another third was only allowed to use the pain reliever in acute cases (maximum 4000 mg per day). The third group received only a dummy drug (placebo), which did not contain any drug and could therefore have no pharmacological effect. The result: "Taking the drug had no effect on alleviating the symptoms". Instead, the pain decreased after an average of 17 days in the two groups taking paracetamol, and even after 16 days in the placebo group. "Our results suggest that regular or on-demand dosing of paracetamol compared to placebo has no effect on the recovery time for pain in the lower back," said the researchers in the journal "The Lancet".
Previous therapy should be called into question But not only with regard to the end of the pain symptoms, there were no differences between the groups, and the analgesic also did not have any positive effects on the quality of sleep and life. Accordingly, it makes sense to question the previous therapy: "Our results question the general recommendation for paracetamol in patients with pain in the lower back," said lead author Dr. Christopher Williams continues. "Since back pain is the leading cause of inability to work worldwide, this study shows that an improved focus on the development of new, effective therapies is warranted," said Professor Christine Lin of the University of Sydney. First of all, however, further studies must be carried out to investigate why paracetamol remains ineffective in the case of cross ailments - because in other pain conditions, such as headaches, the efficacy has been sufficiently proven. (No)