1748A link between paracetamol use and asthma in European adults confirmed in GA²LEN study.

Adults who take paracetamol weekly were nearly three times more likely to have asthma than those taking paracetamol less often, according to a study organised by GA²LEN, the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network. Use of other painkillers was not significantly related to asthma.

In the GA²LEN-SARI study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers across Europe compared the frequency of analgesic use in over 500 adults with asthma and over 500 controls.  Their results, to be presented at the next Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) in Berlin (October 4-8, 2008) suggest that the risk of asthma symptoms is increased by frequent paracetamol use. This may be the consequence of the action of paracetamol that reduces levels of ‘glutathione’ in the lungs, an antioxidant substance needed to defend the airways against damage from air pollution and tobacco smoke.

Dr Seif Shaheen from Imperial College London, one of the authors of the study, says “Epidemiological evidence is growing that shows a link between paracetamol and asthma. Since 2000, several publications have reported this association for instance in the UK and the USA. We have also shown that asthma prevalence is higher in children and adults in countries with higher paracetamol sales.

“Considering asthma is a common disease and paracetamol use is frequent, it is now important to find out whether this association is really a causal one.  A clinical trial may be the only way to answer this question conclusively.”

The Selenium and Asthma Research Integration (SARI) project was initially set out across 15 GA²LEN centres to integrate research efforts and build capacity of the GA²LEN network for future large epidemiological studies.  The network is also developing a clinical trial network specialised in allergy and asthma, which in the long run could help scientists to further investigate the link between paracetamol and asthma.

The relation between paracetamol use and asthma: a GA²LEN European case-control study
S. Shaheen, J. Potts, L. Gnatiuc, M.L. Kowalski, G. Joos, T. van Zele, Y. van Durme, I. De Rudder, S. Wöhrl, J. Godnic-Cvar, L. Skadhauge, G. Thomsen, T. Zuberbier, K.C. Bergmann, L. Heinzerling, M. Gjomarkaj, A. Bruno, E. Pace, S. Bonini, W. Fokkens, E.J.M. Weersink, C. Loureiro, C.M. Villanueva, C. Sanjuas, J-P. Zock, C. Janson, P. Burney
European Respiratory Journal 2008, In Press.
Published online before print, doi:10.1183/09031936.00039208

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Last updated 24 July 2014