NSAID painkillers linked to increased heart risk

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January 13th, 2011

Taking certain painkillers daily for some years carries a small increased risk of heart attack and stroke, research has suggested.

The findings relate to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen prescribed long-term to treat painful conditions such as arthritis.

People taking them now and again are at minimal risk, say experts.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at more than 100,000 patients in 31 clinical trials.

A Swiss team analysed data from existing large-scale studies comparing use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib, etoricoxib, rofecoxib and lumiracoxib – with other drugs or placebo.

One of the drugs – rofecoxib (also known by its brand name, Vioxx) was withdrawn in 2004 when other studies found a raised risk of heart attacks.
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“Start Quote

This confirms what has been known for some years now – taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs on a regular basis increases heart attack or stroke risk”

End Quote Professor Peter Weissberg British Heart Foundation

Most of the patients were elderly, with conditions like osteoarthritis, and were taking high doses of NSAIDs daily for at least a year.

The researchers found the medicine increased the risk of death from stroke or heart attack by between two and four times, compared with placebo.

Peter Juni, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, told the BBC: “For elderly (people) with musculoskeletal