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Painkillers May Stop Bones From Healing

When we have a broken bone, do we have to suffer in order to heal? Despite the advances of modern medicine, maybe we do.

"It's time to tell the public," says Thomas Einhorn, an orthopedic surgeon at Boston University Medical Center. "It would seem that a prudent approach is to temporarily avoid the use of these drugs during bone healing."

He?s talking about the new painkillers Vioxx and Celebrex, which are often given to ease the pain of broken bones. When Patrick O'Connor at the University of New Jersey gave these painkillers to rats, their broken bones didn?t fully heal.

The older types of medicine given for the pain of fractures, such as ibuprofen, also slow down healing but only for a few weeks. Aspirin is the only pain medicine that doesn?t have this side effect. "Ibuprofen and indomethacin delay bone healing by about one to two weeks in rats, which is the equivalent to slowing it down by 25 to 50 per cent in humans," says O'Connor.

It turns out the many painkillers inhibit the enzymes cox-1 and cox-2. Cox-2 may be necessary to form bone stem cells. Doctors who treat broken bones feel this needs to be more fully investigated right away. Jeremy Saklatvala of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London, says, "In the meantime, people with healing fractures should steer clear of these drugs."

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