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Common Painkillers Could Increase Risk of a Heart Attack, Study Finds

Update Date: May 30, 2013 04:06 PM EDT

Common painkillers, like ibuprofen, are taken everyday to relieve pains and aches by millions of people. Although these drugs, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are frequently prescribed or sold over the counter in a lower dosage, a new study reports that they might not be as safe as previously believed. According to a new study conduced by researchers from Oxford University, NSAIDs and coxibs, which are another kind of NSAIDs created after studies found that NSAIDs increased the risk of gastrointestinal problems, both pose a threat to overall health. These two drugs were linked to increasing one's risk of a heart attack.

"For every 1,000 individuals with a moderate risk of heart disease allocated to one year of treatment with high-dose diclofenac or ibuprofen, about three would experience an avoidable heart attack of which one would be fatal," written in the press statement accompanying the study, reported by New York Daily News. "In addition, all NSAIDs double the risk of heart failure and produce a 2-4 times increased risk of serious upper gastrointestinal complications such as bleeding ulcers."

This study composed of data from 353,00 patients that were from 639 trials. Based from this data set, the researchers found that patients who took NSAIDs and had a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol had the highest risk of suffering from a heart attack. Other people who took these drugs and coxibs frequently to treat pain had a slight increase risk for a heart attack as well. The researchers stated that even though the risk is relatively small, people with underlying risk factors should pay extra attention to their health. A high dosage of diclofenac is around 150 milligrams days. For ibuprofen, a high dosage is around 2,400 milligrams a day. These dosages are usually only attainable via prescriptions.

"Powerful drugs may have serious harmful effects. It is therefore important for prescribers to take into account these risks and ensure patients are fully informed about the medicines they are taking," Donald Singer, who was not a part of the study, commented. Singer is a member of the British Pharmacological Society.

The researchers also stated that they did not find the exact link between heart attack and these drugs. They theorized that these drugs could increase clotting, which could lead to heart attacks. These drugs have also been tied to increasing blood pressure. The researchers recommend alternative medicines, such as acetaminophens or opioids in treating pain.

The study was published in The Lancet

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