According to a new study, the painkiller acetaminophen — best known as Tylenol — does not help treat a particular type of pain.
The researchers found the drug was no more effective than a dummy pill for more than 1,600 people suffering from acute lower back pain.
Besides showing no effect in easing discomfort, the study also found the drug was no help in improving sleep problems tied to back pain, nor did it improve patients’ overall quality of life.
The research team said the findings call into question the belief that acetaminophen should be the first choice when treating this common form of back pain.
The drug “might not be of primary importance in the management of acute lower back pain,” study lead author Dr. Christopher Williams from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, said in a news release from the journal The Lancet.
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes Tylenol, said doctors need to consider “the entire body of scientific evidence when making recommendations or changing guidelines.” The company said that “the safety and efficacy profile of acetaminophen is supported by more than 150 studies over the past 50 years.”
The researchers suggested that the medical reassurance the patients received during the study — something many won’t get in a “real world” setting — could have had a more significant effect on their lower back pain than the medication.
“It would be interesting to see whether advice and reassurance [as provided in our trial] might be more effective than pharmacological strategies for acute episodes of low-back pain,” Williams said.