This study, utilizing data from 74 randomized trials published between 1980 and 2015, compared the effects of 22 different medical treatments and placebo on pain intensity and physical activity in over 58,000 patients with osteoarthritis.
The findings, published in The Lancet, found that paracetamol, sold as acetaminophen in the US under the brand name Tylenol, was only slightly better than placebo, whereas nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were better choices for short-term pain relief.
In particular, diclofenac (brand names Voltaren, Zipsor) appeared most effective in terms of pain and physical function, although the study authors warned that long-term NSAID use carries risks, such as serious gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects.
The Swiss National Science Foundation and a grant from the Arco Foundation, Switzerland, funded this research. No conflicts of interest were reported.