Flu medicine is essential for people with cramps and pain.
But the pain relief it can bring is often just a placebo, and a new study has shown the benefits are mostly spurious.
A research team led by the University of Queensland’s Dr Stephen Coughlan found that flu medications were not effective at reducing pain and spasticity in people with chronic pain.
Professor Coughlin and his team looked at data from more than 1.5 million people who took the flu medicine metronidazole, metronidine, flurazepam, nelfinavir and pravastatin for the past six years.
They found people with mild or moderate pain were more likely to be prescribed flu medication than those with moderate or severe pain, and that those who took more than 20 different medications were less likely to benefit from the medication than people who had fewer than five.
Dr Coughland said the study was an “exciting” and “excitable” look at what might be happening to people with pain.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in this area of research because of the lack of rigour in how you’re measuring these things, but it looks like this is actually quite normal,” he said.
“So in a sense this is a bit of an early validation of what’s been happening in this field over the past decade or so, and we’re really excited about it.”
The research involved researchers using a unique mathematical model to predict the effectiveness of different flu medications and then comparing those results with the data from real people.
“We’re seeing an increase in people in the UK using this particular type of medication over the last few years,” Professor Coughlyn said.
“The way we calculate this is it takes a pain-relief medication that reduces pain to reduce the risk of developing chronic pain and then the probability of getting sick in a month is based on this equation.”
If you reduce the probability that someone gets sick in the month, you reduce their likelihood of getting better, so we have an increase and decrease in people using this medication.
“A similar result was seen in Australia, where doctors are increasingly using this mathematical model as they prescribe flu medicines for people.
The researchers used data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which has shown that flu medicine was one of the top pain-reducing medications among US adults.
However, it is not clear if flu medicines were more effective than other pain-lowering drugs, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen.
Other studies have shown that the effectiveness was mostly due to placebo effects, with some studies showing that flu medicines may also reduce the pain of people who are suffering from a condition that they are unable to manage.
Dr Croughlan said he did not want to get too carried away by this result.
He said it did not mean that flu medication could be ineffective, but that the benefits of it could be misleading.
But Professor Croughlyn said the work highlighted that the idea that flu pills could be effective at relieving pain was a bit “unnatural” and was not supported by the evidence.”
It is possible to get these benefits from a number of other factors, including a variety of lifestyle factors and possibly some medication that you are prescribed but that doesn’t necessarily do the trick,” he explained.
And Dr Coughley said the best way to ensure you get the best flu medicine available was to seek a specialist who could prescribe it to you.”
I think there’s an idea that if you don’t want to take a medication that will work for you, then you needn’t worry about whether it’s effective for you,” he told RN Breakfast.”
You should be able to take it to your doctor and ask them for advice.
“Professor Croughley said people with conditions like Crohn’s disease should be more careful about how they used their medicine.”
What we know is if you have chronic pain you need a lot more medication than if you’re just having a mild pain, because the pain can be so debilitating,” he added.”
The thing is, if you get really, really severe it can be very hard to get out of bed.
“This is a very common thing for people to have with chronic conditions, and so the next thing to do is to have some pain management.”