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Pain medication may be linked to kidney failure

Posted May 13 2008 5:32pm

People with kidney disease or other ailments who regularly take aspirin or acetaminophen may be increasing the risk of developing kidney failure. Patients who regularly use pain medications (according to researchers, regular use is defined as at least twice each week for two months), were between two and three times more likely to have the beginning stages of chronic kidney failure than patients who do not regularly take pain medication. This pertains only to those with pre-existing kidney disease. This is supported by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (December 20, 2001;345:1801-1808).

People who used either acetaminophen or aspirin regularly were 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic renal failure, compared with individuals who did not use these painkillers. The risk rose in with the amount of either drug taken over a lifetime, the investigators found.

Patients with diabetes -- a major underlying cause of kidney failure -- had an increased risk of kidney failure with regular aspirin and acetaminophen use.

The result is consistent with other studies that have found a link between regular use of painkillers and an increased risk of chronic kidney failure in susceptible individuals.

An article published in the New York Times (January 29, 2002) covers concern of NBA players over the regular use of these medications. This is in the wake of Alanzo Mourning of the Miami Heat developing a kidney disorder and Sean Elliot needing a kidney transplant. Concerned players include Shaquille O'Neal, who was concerned that his regular use of an anti-inflammatory drug over the years could cause the disease Mourning has, stopped taking the drug. To quote the article, “Many doctors say that if someone uses anti-inflammatory medicines in excessive amounts over long periods of time - as some N.B.A. players apparently have, taking three or four times the recommended dose - it can affect kidney function.”

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