Regular Use of Painkiller May Slow Spinal Arthritis

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A study of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis that targets the spine, shows that daily use of the painkiller can significantly slow the progression of the disease—as opposed to taking it on an "as-needed" basis.

The 2-year study started with 215 patients with AS. They were divided into 2 groups: those in one group were prescribed twice-daily use of NSAIDs, while those in the other group were told to take the painkillers only when they experienced pain or stiffness. The patients were assessed at regular intervals throughout the study, and x-rays were taken of their spines at both the start and the end of the study.

Overall, the researchers found significant differences in x-ray evidence of disease progression. Twice as many patients who took NSAIDs only as needed scored moderate-to-high levels of spinal cord damage at the end of the study, compared with patients who took the NSAIDs every day. The investigators said that the findings may prove important for both the treatment of AS and the use of NSAIDs. The study results appear in the June issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.