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Pain Killers May Delay Bone Healing

From the May 28, 2002 Associated Press comes a report of new research that suggests some of the most widely used painkillers may delay healing of a broken bone. According to the AP story, bone experts call the research compelling enough that doctors should explain the risk before patients choose a painkiller for a broken bone, spinal surgery or other bone injury. The research shows that the biggest sellers, Vioxx and Celebrex are among the worst drugs for preventing or slowing healing.

In the study, researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey gave 253 young rats with a splinted broken leg either Vioxx, Celebrex, indomethacin or no drug. Indomethacin-treated rats took a week longer to heal than untreated rats; the resulting bone was as strong. Even worse, rats given Vioxx or Celebrex hadn't fully healed after two months, and what new bone formed sometimes was only a weakened shell.

Researcher O'Connor says "If it were my fracture, to me every day counts." In response to this information, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons just alerted all its members to the study and the potential problem. Additionally, the Arthritis Foundation's medical director has called for more research to see if people really are at risk. In the meantime he says patients should discuss with their doctors if they should temporarily quit any anti-inflammatory painkiller until a broken bone heals.