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Paracetamol link to asthma

22nd September 2008

A recent study in Europe has found that people who use paracetamol, also known by its generic name acetominophen, on a regular basis are more likely to suffer from asthma.

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The study, carried out by researchers at the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network, joins a growing body of evidence linking the drug to asthma.

Regular users of paracetamol are nearly three times more likely to have asthma than non-regular users.

Scientists looked at the frequency of painkiller use in more than 500 adults with asthma and 500 healthy people in several European countries.

Writing in the European Respiratory Journal, the study authors reported a link between increased asthma symptoms and a frequency of paracetamol use of more than once a week.

In the UK, asthma is responsible for 70,000 hospital admissions and 1,400 deaths annually.

The disease affects five million people in Britain alone, including 1.4 million children.

Paracetamol has been the painkiller of choice for asthmatics in recent years owing to concerns over the similarity of anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, also known by brand name Nurofen, to aspirin, which can cause sensitivity in some people with asthma.

Co-author Seif Shaheen from Imperial College London, said epidemiological evidence was growing that pointed to a link between paracetamol and asthma.

Several publications had reported the link since 2000, Shaheen said. Higher paracetamol sales were also linked to higher prevalence of asthma in country studies.

Paracetamol is thought to bring down the level of the antioxidant glutathione, which plays a role in protecting the lining of the nose and airways from air pollution, tobacco smoke and the harmful effects of free radicals.

Asthma experts called for further research into the role played by paracetamol in asthma.

A proven link, according to Leanne Male, Asthma UK's Assistant Director of Research, could potentially reduce the number of people developing asthma in the first place.

 

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