Researchers from the UK and Canada say Voltaren should be
pulled off the market because it raises the risk of heart
attack and stroke.
The painkiller diclofenac, sold as Voltaren, should be taken
off the market, the research said, after finding it remains
popular despite known cardiovascular risks.
But Medsafe in New Zealand said the danger had been reviewed
and it was believed the benefits outweighed the risk.
In a study published this week in the journal PLOS Medicine
researchers found that diclofenac, on average, was the most
commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in
15 countries studied - despite being associated with more
cardiovascular complications than other NSAIDs. Researchers
looked at the national essential medicine lists from 100
countries, and found 74 of them listed diclofenac.
The researchers said it was likely that diclofenac was taken
by many individuals at high risk of heart attack.
"We believe there's no advantage over safer drugs, and we
believe it should be withdrawn from world markets," said Dr
David Henry, of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative
Sciences, in Canada.
"Given the availability of safer alternatives, diclofenac
should be delisted from national essential medicine lists,"
said study lead author Dr Patricia McGettigan, from the
William Harvey Research Institute in London.
However, Medsafe said all medicines carried risks and
"In 2008 Medsafe reviewed the safety of non-selective,
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
diclofenac and concluded that the benefits of using
diclofenac to treat pain and/or inflammatory conditions
outweigh the potential risks for the majority of patients,"
said Medsafe Group manager Stewart Jessamine.
He said Medsafe's advice for consumers was to use the lowest
possible dose of diclofenac for the shortest time possible.
It was prescribed for 375,000 people in the year to November