Central nervous system toxicity of mefenamic acid overdose compared with other NSAIDs: an analysis of cases reported to the United Kingdom National Poisons Information Service

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Abstract

AIMS

Case reports and small case series suggest increased central nervous system (CNS) toxicity, especially convulsions, after overdose of mefenamic acid, compared with other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), although comparative epidemiological studies have not been conducted. The current study compared rates of CNS toxicity after overdose between mefenamic acid, ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen, as reported in telephone enquiries to the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS).

METHODS

NPIS telephone enquiries related to the four NSAIDs, received between January 2007 and December 2013, were analysed, comparing the frequency of reported CNS toxicity (convulsions, altered conscious level, agitation or aggression, confusion or disorientation) using multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS

Of 22 937 patient-specific telephone enquiries, 10 398 did not involve co-ingestion of other substances (mefenamic acid 461, ibuprofen 8090, diclofenac 1300, naproxen 547). Patients taking mefenamic acid were younger and more commonly female than those using other NSAIDs. Those ingesting mefenamic acid were more likely to experience CNS toxicity than those ingesting the other NSAIDs combined [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 7.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 5.68, 10.62], especially convulsions (adjusted OR 81.5, 95% CI 27.8, 238.8). Predictors of CNS toxicity included reported dose and age, but not gender.

CONCLUSIONS

Mefenamic acid overdose is associated with a much larger and dose-related risk of CNS toxicity, especially convulsions, compared with overdose of other NSAIDs. The benefit–risk profile of mefenamic acid should now be re-evaluated in light of effective and less toxic alternatives.

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