Diclofenac is the generic name for a prescription non-steroid, anti-inflammatory pain relief medication (NSAIDs). Diclofenac relieves pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis by stopping the body's production of a substance that causes pain, fever, and inflammation. Fast-acting diclofenac tablets can also provide relief to patients suffering painful menstrual periods and other types of pain. Diclofenac is manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals and sold under the names Cataflam and Voltaren-XR, and by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals as Arthrotec.
Diclofenac Health Risks: Heart Attack, Stroke, and Ulcers
People who take NSAIDs (other than aspirin), such as diclofenac, may have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke than people who don’t take these medications. Get emergency medical help right away if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness in one part or side of the body, or slurred speech. If you will be undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG; a type of heart surgery), then you shouldn’t take diclofenac right before or right after the surgery.
Also, NSAIDs may cause ulcers, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestine. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop taking diclofenac and call your healthcare professional: stomach pain - heartburn, vomiting a substance that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds, blood in the stool, or black and tarry stools.
Cardiovascular or bleeding problems can develop at any time during NSAID use and may cause death. Serious health risks may be higher for patients who take NSAIDs for an extended period of time, are older in age, are in poor health, or who drink large amounts of alcohol.
Be certain to communicate regularly with your doctor about your condition, so he or she can prescribe the right amount of diclofenac for treatment of your condition with the lowest risk of serious side effects. Your healthcare professional will monitor your symptoms carefully and will probably order certain tests to check your body's response to diclofenac. Always read the manufacturer's medication guide before you begin using a medication. If you have any questions, contact your healthcare professional or pharmacist.
What Should I Tell My Healthcare Professional Before He or She Prescribes Diclofenac?
Always inform your doctor of any allergies you have, whether to medications, foods, or other substances. If you or anyone in your family has ever had heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke, let your treating medical professional know. Also, if you smoke, you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, bleeding in your stomach or intestines, bleeding disorder, asthma, frequent stuffed or runny nose or nasal polyps, lupus, porphyria, liver or kidney disease, or swelling of the extremeties, make certain to alert your doctor. Women should discuss any current or potential pregnancy or breast-feeding.
This is only a partial list of the conditions you should discuss with your treating medical professional before considering diclofenac. You should always inform your treating doctor about your overall health or any conditions you or your close family have experienced, so he or she can accurately prescribe the best treatment for you.
Diclofenac Side Effects
Tell your healthcare professional if any of the following side effects are severe or persistent:
- Gas or bloating
- Ringing in the ears
There are many other potential side effects you may experience when taking diclofenac. Contact your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any of the following: unexplained weight gain; excessive tiredness or lack of energy; upset stomach or loss of appetite; itching; pain in the upper right part of the stomach; yellowing of the skin or eyes; flu-like symptoms; allergice symptoms like fever, blisters, rash, hives, swelling of the eyes, face, tongue, lips, throat, or extremeties; difficulty breathing or swallowing; hoarseness; pale skin; rapid heartbeat; cloudy, discolored, painful, or bloody urine; or back pain.
Are There Any Interactions Between Diclofenac and Other Drugs or Foods?
Yes, diclofenac can interact with other medications or herbal supplements. Always tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take. Diclofenac can be especially reactive with:
- Anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin)
- Other NSAIDS such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- Oral steroids such as dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexone), methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone (Deltasone)
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Diuretics ("water pills")
- Insulin and oral medication for diabetes
- Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid)
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
Getting Legal Help
While all medications have anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks. If it fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible when patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug. A manufacturer's legal responsibility for injuries arises under the legal doctrine of "product liability."
If you or a loved one has experienced any unusual medical conditions or side effects while taking diclofenac, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also want to consult with a medical malpractice or product liability attorney to discuss whether it may be appropriate to pursue a legal remedy for any injuries you sustained.