- 1 Are NSAIDs Safe to Use?
- 1.1 Harvard Medical’s Opinion about Joint Pain and NSAID’s
- 1.2 Oral or Topical Use of Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Medicines
- 1.3 What about Potential Serious Side Effects?
- 1.4 Drug Industry Pressure on Scientists to Downplay Risks
- 1.5 Do Big Pharma Executives Feel The Heat?
- 1.6 Choosing the Right Pain Reliever
Are NSAIDs Safe to Use?
Nowadays, many people have knee surgery, which ranges from fairly simple surgery, like cleaning out frayed meniscus or cartilage, ligament repair, to full knee replacement.
In addition, there are other ways to treat knee discomfort and knee inflammation. These various medicines which you can take internally or apply externally as topical ointments. Do you use medicines like Ibuprofen, Advil, Excedrin, Aspercreme?
Harvard Medical’s Opinion about Joint Pain and NSAID’s
Two articles came to my attention that I found quite thought provoking and worth sharing.
The first is from the highly authoritative, Harvard Health Publication from Harvard Medical School.
The article, Get Rub-on Relief for Arthritis Joint Pain explains the benefits of the category of medications known as NSAID’s or Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
The article gives an excellent overview of using medicines to control pain. The most common over the counter pain relievers are the popular Tylenol, which, however is not an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen, is possibly the most well known anti-inflammatory, as well as in Advil and Motrin. Naproxen is the main ingredient in the common pain reliever, Aleve.
The article points out that you can take these kinds of medicines orally or apply them topically, that is, right on the affected area.
It also asserts that for relatively mild osteoarthritis, these medicines can relieve pain. However, when all the cartilage is gone and if you have bone on bone rubbing, the pain will be a lot more intense, and difficult to treat. These NSAID’s may be of some but more limited value in the more advanced cases of knee degeneration.
Oral or Topical Use of Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Medicines
Oral use results in the whole body being flooded with the medicine, whereas topical use results in far more local exposure. However, once any substance is absorbed through the skin, it will tend to disburse throughout the body.
Many NSAID’s have shown side effects such as stomach irritation, but the relative value of joint relief is often seen as worth the tradeoff. The Harvard article says:
“A recent scientific review by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international body of health experts, found that some prescription topical NSAIDs offer the same pain relief as oral medications, but with fewer gastrointestinal concerns.”
The Cochrane review covered 34 studies involving 7,688 adults who experienced chronic musculoskeletal pain for at least three months. They received several different kinds of topical NSAIDs for their pain. The topical NSAID diclofenac (Voltaren) was as effective as oral NSAIDs for arthritis in the knee or hand.
The article then discusses some common approaches, such as natural remedies like Ginger, Capsaicin, Eucalyptus, or Menthol or Willow Bark, which is related to aspirin (Acetyl salicylic acid). You’ll find these in over the counter products like Bengay, or the Chinese herbal medicine, Tiger Balm.
The conclusion of the article is that there may be some side effects, especially with oral NSAID’s. However, there are a lot of choices and there are certain benefits.
So that is the modern medical point of view straight from one of the most prestigious medical schools in the USA.
What about Potential Serious Side Effects?
I have been interested in this whole area of pain relief on a personal level, though I have avoided the use of NSAID’s due to their stomach irritation. And I am generally wary of strong medicines from the major pharmaceutical companies, though I do take them when I perceive the need as unavoidable.
Recently, however, I came across another article by an independent writer, named Mike Whitney.
His article, Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die cites and quotes a recent note released by the FDA, that is the Food And Drug Administration, which is the US government agency tasked with protecting the public from harmful food, substances or devices. Here is their quote:
“FDA is strengthening an existing warning in prescription drug labels and over-the-counter (OTC) Drug Facts labels to indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death. Those serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs. (FDA Strengthens Warning of Heart Attack and Stroke Risk for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, FDA website)”
That does not give me a comfy feeling, what about you?
Drug Industry Pressure on Scientists to Downplay Risks
His article goes on to point out that FDA scientists are often placed under enormous pressure–like losing their career–if they don’t give approval to drugs that have backing by Big Pharma. The big drug company Merck was fined almost a billion dollars for marketing Vioxx, which resulted in numerous fatalities.
And yet Vioxx was a huge money maker for Merck, earning it billions. So the billion dollar fine and the 55,000 dead and 140,000 who suffered heart attacks were worth $2.3 billion in sales in 2003 alone. Not a bad investment as long as you aren’t the one who died or had a heart attack.
Many of the FDA administrators, the article points out, were on the take from the very companies they are supposed to regulate. In Whitney’s view, Merck knowingly pushed the sale of a drug that resulted in numerous deaths. And as a result, guess how many Merck executives went to jail.
Do Big Pharma Executives Feel The Heat?
As I write this article, I note a recent case in China. Some companies sold powdered milk for infants. What they didn’t say was that the milk powder had Melamine in it, a chemical that mimics protein, but is not.
Numerous babies died from this assault on public health.
But things work differently there. The Chinese government hauled the high ranking corporate executives into court, convicted and then executed those wealthy corporate fraudsters! This is pretty shocking to me, but then again, they certainly deserved prison terms. Little babies died because of their immoral decision to use a dangerous product for profit.
So there you have it, Harvard Medical School’s publication promotes the use of NSAID’s with only a mild caveat. When the reality is that the issue is much more serious. Whitney ends by pointing out that here in the USA the big corporations control the medical system. They place their profit over the public’s safety.
Choosing the Right Pain Reliever
What to do? Obviously, the first thing is to be wary of prescription drugs, and do research before using them.
Second, take a look at natural remedies that have stood the test of time. They’re not dependent on a payoff between a big corporation and a government bureaucrat.
Third, if your doctor prescribes medication to you, ask him if he receives any ‘incentives’ for prescribing the medicine to you. In many cases they do get trips to conventions and other perks for pushing medicines. Do your own research and then ask the doctor if you have any reservations about its use.
Recently, I went to see a doctor for a rash, and the doctor prescribed a prednisone–steroid– product. I refused to take it.
Before you take a medicine, find out what possible side effects it has. You just might save your own life!