Doctors are examining the dangers of over-the-counter pain relievers
There have already been studies that have found that painkillers can lead to an increased risk of heart problems. Researchers built a recent study on this earlier work and found that certain pain relievers actually increase the likelihood of heart attacks.
Scientists at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal found that some pain relievers (such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib, and naproxen) increase the risk of heart attacks. The doctors published the results of their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Experts analyze the data of over 445,000 test subjects for their investigation
The experts say that the risk of a heart attack seems to be greatest in the first 30 days after taking certain pain relievers. In their study, the research team analyzed the data from 446,763 subjects. The doctors wanted to find out why and when heart problems can occur.
These drugs can increase the risk of a heart attack
The investigation focused mainly on people prescribed so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen) by doctors. Studying data from Canada, Finland, and the United Kingdom found that these pain and inflammation medications increase the risk of heart attacks in the first few weeks of use, the authors say.
High doses of pain relievers lead to increased risk
If people, especially in the first month, took high doses of painkillers (e.g. more than 1200 mg ibuprofen per day), this increased the risk of heart attacks, the doctors explain. Despite the large number of patients involved, some aspects are still unclear. Because, for example, it is often difficult for people who took a high dose of a pain reliever due to severe pain and who had a heart attack the following week to determine the exact reason for the event, the experts add.
Smoking and obesity also have an impact on the risk of heart attack
Evidence from previous studies suggests that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can increase the risk of heart problems and strokes. For example, one study found that painkillers significantly increase the risk of cardiac death. However, other influences on heart health such as smoking and obesity could not be fully considered, according to the researchers.
People with very severe heart failure should not use certain pain relievers
Current British guidelines advise that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be used with caution in people with heart problems. In some cases (such as very severe heart failure), these drugs should not be used at all. Patients and doctors must carefully consider the risks and benefits of taking high doses of these pain relievers. The experts say especially if those affected have already survived a heart attack or are at increased risk of a heart attack.
Long-term use can lead to serious side effects
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are typically used to treat chronic pain. Although some of the drugs are routinely prescribed in the UK, long-term use is known to cause serious side effects in patients.
Let your doctor tell you about the risks
The current study found that higher doses (e.g. more than 1200mg ibuprofen per day) lead to the greatest risks for the development of heart attacks. People should usually take the lowest possible dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, experts advise. If people use these drugs very often or in very high amounts, they should urgently seek medical advice, the authors advise. (as)