You might have seen a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, conducted by the University of Sydney, which found that the evidence is not clear that paracetamol medications are more effective than a placebo for the most common illnesses or injuries.
When it comes to pain relief, there are few medications that are as well-known and trusted as paracetamol. It is one of the most used medicines in the world and has been in Australia since the 1950s.
However, the findings indicate the most ineffective use of paracetamol is when it is taken for acute low back pain. In trialling paracetamol to treat almost 50 common pain conditions, it was discovered that only knee and hip osteoarthritis, craniotomy, tension headache and perineal pain after childbirth were better for managing pain than a placebo.
The prevailing issue is that paracetamol has become so ubiquitous in the treatment of chronic pain that it is difficult to know how these new findings will be accepted and adopted in Australia.
Following the restriction of opioid medication recently together with boxed warnings for medications containing pregabalin or gabapentin, the roll out of real time prescription monitoring and the exceptionally long wait times to see a pain specialist of at least a year, people living with chronic pain now appear to have even fewer medication options to help them manage their condition.
Further research is required to determine paracetamol’s efficacy for managing pain. In the meantime, it seems the need to educate consumers and prescribers about alternative treatments and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management is becoming more important in light of diminishing medication options.