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The Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, and Naprosyn you can buy over the counter are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Once Americans become middle-aged or older, most begin eating NSAIDs like M&Ms. Despite the many troubling studies, bad press and a warning by the Food and Drug Administration that these drugs can cause heart attacks and strokes, NSAIDs remain widely used and abused. Their availability and the fact that they are ingrained in our culture as a safe way of dealing with pain, hides the unfortunate truth that NSAIDs are not a safe way to deal with pain. An interesting new study in France looks at glucosamine as a safe and natural alternative.

In addition to over-the-counter NSAIDs, there are many prescription forms as well. This list includes Celebrex (celecoxib), Mobic (meloxicam), Voltaren (diclofenac), Daypro (oxaprozin), and others. Regrettably, the doctors who prescribe these drugs often are oblivious to the serious cardiac side effects. At a minimum, NSAIDs double your chance of a sudden-death heart attack or stroke—and at a maximum, they quadruple it.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar derived from the shells of shellfish or from cow hooves and joints. Many studies have shown that in combination with another component of cartilage, chondroitin, glucosamine can protect against arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin also have been found to have powerful natural anti-inflammatory effects. These are facts much more appreciated by arthritis patients than by the big pharmaceutical companies. This is because supplements have none of the business barriers to entry such as FDA approval and patents, things that allow the pharmaceutical companies to jack up the price of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Rather than a traditionally constructed study, the study reported in the November 2015 issue of Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism randomly selected doctors from the French telephone directory. They were asked to divide their patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis into two groups. One group was prescribed NSAIDS, and another group a combination of naturally occurring ingredients including glucosamine. The patients’ pain levels were tracked and reported. The results were not good news for the drug companies—the use of glucosamine in patients reporting symptoms of knee osteoarthritis reduced the use of NSAIDS by 36 percent.

People routinely use NSAIDS for common aches and pains. While reducing the use of NSAIDS by 36 percent might seem insignificant, such a reduction over 10 to 20 years could save thousands or even millions of people from the stroke, heart attack, and severe gastrointestinal bleeding episodes caused by these drugs. Why are we holding onto these drugs that increase the risk for serious diseases when we have safer, natural alternatives? Is it because getting rid of them would reduce drug company revenue?


“Impact of NSAID Risks to Society Is Huge” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.

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