The Impact of NSAID Risks to Society May Be Huge…

by Chris Centeno, MD /

Have you ever thought about the implications NSAID risks pose to society? What is an NSAID? The Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Naprosyn you can buy at the drug store and most Americans eat like M&Ms once they’re middle aged or older are all called Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs. Despite the many troubling studies, bad press and the July FDA warning that these drugs can cause heart attacks and strokes, they are still 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…NSAIDs are not a safe way to deal with pain. A very interesting new study looks at an alternative that could save lives – Glucosamine, a safe and natural alternative.

The over the counter NSAIDs are described above, but there are many prescription forms as well. This list includes Celebrex (celecoxib), Mobic (meloxicam), Voltaren (diclofenac),  Daypro (oxaprozin), and others. Regrettably, the doctors that prescribe these drugs are often oblivious to the serious cardiac side effects of the entire drug class. These drugs at a minimum double your chance of a sudden death heart attack or stroke and at a maximum they quadruple it!

Glucosamine on the other hand is an amino sugar derived form the shells of shellfish or from things like cow hooves/joints and is a component of cartilage. Many studies have shown that in combination with another component of cartilage, chondroitin, they can protect against arthritis. They have also been found to be powerful natural anti-inflammatories. These are facts much more appreciated by arthritis patients than a big pharma company. Why? Supplements have none of the business barriers to entry like FDA approval and patents that allow pharma to jack up the price of prescription or over the counter drugs.

Rather than a traditionally constructed study, this study was set up by randomly selecting doctors from the French telephone directory. They were asked to divide their knee OA patients into 2 groups. One group of their Osteoarthritis patients complaining of pain were prescribed NSAIDS, and another group a combination of naturally occurring ingredients including Glucosamine. There pain level was tracked and reported. The results were not good news for the drug companies!  The use of Glucosamine, in patients reporting symptoms of knee OA, reduced the use of NSAIDS by 36%!

The upshot?  People use NSAIDS these days for common aches and pains. While reducing the use of NSAIDS by 36% might not sound significant, we may be able to save hundreds of thousands to millions of people over 10-20 years from the stroke, heart attack, and severe GI bleeding episodes caused by these drugs if we switched out NSAIDs for Glucosamine. Even if the number is smaller than that, why are we holding onto these drugs that increase the risk for serious disease when we have safer, natural alternatives? Is it because getting rid of them would reduce drug company revenue? Heck, what’s a pissed off drug company compared to living with the effects of stroke or going to an early grave because you decided to pop some Motrin for your achy knee?

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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