New evidence – perhaps the most compelling yet – has emerged that links widely-taken painkillers with heart attacks.
The BMJ-published study is based on preceding work suggesting that Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories can cause cardiovascular problems when taken in high doses.
Involving almost 450,000 sets of data provided by patients in three countries - Finland, the UK and Canada - this was a massive study. These 444,763 records were cross-analysed as the researchers concerned tried to establish heart problem patterns. Their point of focus was firmly fixed on doctor-prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), rather than OTC (over-the-counter) medications. Five specific drugs were tracked, namely rofecoxib, ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen.
NSAIDS And Heart Attacks
The research team ultimately discovered that NSAIDs in their counter-pain/inflammation role could absolutely make patients more heart attack-susceptible. In percentage terms, the risk compared to non-NSAIDS users was approximately 20-50 per cent, equating to around one per cent a year. These were average figures but there was variation between the individual drugs. The risk was especially pronounced during the initial month, not seemingly increasing any more over longer treatment periods.
‘Given that the onset of risk of acute myocardial infarction occurred in the first week and appeared greatest in the first month of treatment with higher doses, prescribers should consider weighing the risks and benefits of NSAIDs before instituting treatment, particularly for higher doses’, Michèle Bally from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center and her team conclude.
Painkillers Heart Risk
Scientists not involved in the painkillers heart risk study urge for the influence of other factors to also be considered. They suggest that while these other factors exist, they complicate ideas of a firm NSAIDs-cardio link.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Professor Stephen Evans calls the study’s contents “good quality, observational research” but adds that its main findings “may not be as clear as the authors suggest”.
“The two main issues here”, he adds, “are that the risks are relatively small, and for most people who are not at high risk of a heart attack, these findings have minimal implications.”