Over-the-counter painkillers, also called NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may contribute to an incased risk of heart attack, a new study suggests.
The overall chances of suffering from a heart attack was calculated to go up by 20-50% in patients taking painkillers, compared to those not taking them, regardless of the dosage and the number of times the drugs are taken, CNN reports.
These drugs include ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib, and naproxen, which are all available over the counter, or through prescription for larger doses. These are used to relieve pain or fever caused by any number of conditions, including the flu, headaches, back pain, and menstrual cramps. The range of use for painkillers also means that they can be taken as often as needed, for short amounts of time.
Dr. Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, and lead author on the study, says,
We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack.
Bally adds, “There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that’s not true.”
The level of risk went up as little as one week into the use of any kind of painkiller, and at any dose. The risk associated with heart attacks increased with higher doses within the first month of use, the study says.
The overall findings concluded that taking any dose of painkillers for a week, a month, or longer was linked to higher chances of suffering a heart attack, with a slight drop one to 30 days after use. The risks continue to decline between 30 days and one year of use.
Bally and the team suggest that, based on these results, doctors and patients should consider the potential dangers versus the benefits of prescribing painkillers, instead of immediately relying on them as a treatment method.
The study was published in the journal BMJ.