Acetaminophen – best known as Tylenol in the United States – does not appear to help ease lower back pain and offers little relief for the most common form of arthritis, according to a new report. The review of data from 13 studies could challenge existing recommendations on pain relief, experts say.
The researchers analyzed 10 studies that examined the use of acetaminophen to treat osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, and three studies that assessed the use of the painkiller for lower back pain. Osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis – and back pain are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, the researchers said.
Current clinical guidelines recommend acetaminophen as the first-line drug treatment for both conditions. However, doubts about the effectiveness of the drug in treating the conditions, and concerns about the safety of the recommended full dose (up to 4,000 milligrams a day), have made those guidelines controversial.
Looking at the pooled data, the investigators found that for people with lower back pain, acetaminophen was ineffective in either reducing patient disability or enhancing quality of life. In people with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, acetaminophen provided only a small, not clinically important benefit in the reduction of pain and disability, the study found.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the maker of Tylenol, countered that acetaminophen has a long history of effectiveness. In a statement, the company said that before clinical guidelines are changed, “it is important to comprehensively look at the body of evidence.”