The painkiller diclofenac isn't very popular in the U.S., but it's by far the most widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, in the world.
A slew of studies, though, show diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the discredited painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004.
But evidence of the drug's cardiovascular risk hasn't translated to a reduction in use, apaper in the journal PLOS Medicine found. Diclofenac far outsells ibuprofen, naproxen, and other NSAIDs in 15 countries around the world.
"If you look at it internationally, diclofenac is the single most widely used NSAID," says study author David Henry of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.
Henry tells Shots that diclofenac raises the risk of a cardiovascular "event" such as heart attack by about 40 percent, compared to taking no NSAID. Other NSAIDS are much safer, with naproxen being the least risky. Naproxen has a global market share of only 10 percent.