Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Developmental Delays Linked to Popular Painkillers

Two new studies raise concerns about NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  While many people are aware that over-the-counter painkillers can result in gastrointestinal disease and liver damage, researchers have uncovered other, more indirect, risks associated with these common medications.  These recent studies suggest that male infertility, erectile dysfunction, and even developmental delays in children may all be linked to the use of popular pain relief options.

One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America investigated the effects of ibuprofen on male reproduction.  In the clinical trial of young men who used ibuprofen, the authors demonstrated that the popular painkiller alters cells in the testicles and impairs hormone production.  The resulting conditions can negatively impact both sperm production and testosterone levels, decreasing fertility and possibly leading to other issues associated with insufficient testosterone. 

Another study unveiled in the January 10th online issue of European Psychiatry describes research that attributes language delays occurring in girls at 30 months of age to prenatal acetaminophen exposure.  The authors determined that the severity of the cognitive impairment increases with the dosage of acetaminophen and higher levels of the drug in the urine.  With as many as 65% of pregnant women in the U.S. using acetaminophen, the findings of this Swedish are alarming and may lead to changes in the standard recommendations given to pregnant mothers.

Given the dangers of opioids in pain management, new evidence of the risks associated with NSAID painkillers paints a bleak picture that leaves few good options for individuals in pain.  The disadvantages of pharmaceutical treatment make it all the more imperative that patients explore alternatives like acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.  Public health authorities and insurance companies must adopt decisive policy to promote public awareness of non-pharmaceutical pain management choices to avoid creating additional medical issues stemming from the adverse effects of drug treatment.