Prescription Drugs

Many people don’t think twice before taking painkillers to ease everyday aches and pains. But new research adds to mounting evidence that commonly used non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve – could substantially increase the risk of heart attack.

Canadian and Europe researchers’ pooled data  from several studies on 446,000 people ages 40 to 79. They found that taking NSAIDs for just one week increased the risk of heart attack by up to 53 percent.

The risk depends on the drug, and climbs over time and at higher doses. The study doesn’t prove NSAIDs cause heart attacks, and the absolute risk of suffering a cardiac episode after taking the drugs remains small. But lead author Michele Bally says the finding should encourage patients to discuss their needs with a doctor. “People are often not aware of their own baseline cardiovascular risk,” she tells The New York Times. “You may want to stay with NSAIDs, or you may want to consider other treatments.”

Most commonly used pain relievers – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen – can also cause intestinal tract ulcers and other problems.

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Doctors have long been concerned that non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may play a role in heart failure, because they reduce the body’s ability to metabolize salt. To investigate that link, researchers in Italy examined the health records of 7.6 million people who had recently been treated with NSAIDs, and compared them with data on 8.2 million people who didn’t use the drugs.

They found that with the exception of celecoxib (Celebrex), NSAIDs raised the relative risk of heart failure by 19 percent. The higher the dosage of these drugs, the greater the risk. The researchers said the fact that these drugs could be bought over the counter fueled the misconception that they were harmless in high doses.

Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart Foundation, said the study “serves as a reminder to doctors to consider carefully how they prescribe NSAIDs, and to patients that they should only take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.”

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