(Editor’s note: Paracetamol isalso known as acetaminophen)
MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Back pain and osteoarthritis are the two major musculoskeletal conditions affecting people worldwide, and paracetamol is the most used over the counter medicine to treat these conditions. Recent debates on the efficacy and safety of paracetamol prompted us to conduct a systematic review of literature on the efficacy of this medication. In our study we included all available clinical trials that compared paracetamol to placebo, and our conclusions are based on data from more than 5,300 patients with low back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis. We found that paracetamol is ineffective for low back pain and provides small and not clinically important benefits to patients with osteoarthritis.
MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Given the clear results of our study we would recommend that patients use other treatments; and there are quite a few options outlined in evidence-based guidelines. For people with low back pain, clinical guidelines include advising patients to remain active and avoid bed rest, avoiding routine imaging, physical therapies, and psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy. For people with osteoarthritis, recommendations include land- or water-based aerobic exercise, strength training and weight management.
MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Our results provide high quality evidence on the efficacy of paracetamol for low back pain and osteoarthritis, so future research on this topic is unlikely to change our conclusions. We however suggest future research to investigate the long-term effects of this medication.
Gustavo C Machado, PhD student, Chris G Maher, director,Paulo H Ferreira, senior lecturer, Marina B Pinheiro, PhD student, Chung-Wei Christine Lin, associate professor, Richard O Day, professor, Andrew J McLachlan, professor, Manuela L Ferreira, associate professor
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gustavo C Machado, PhD student (2015). Acetaminophen May Not Be Effective For Osteoarthritis, Low Back Pain