Common Painkillers Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Attack

A widely used family of over-the-counter painkillers may increase the risk of having a heart attack, a new study suggests.

According to researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can raise the risk of heart attacks “as early as in the first week of use and especially within the first month of taking high doses of such medication.”

Common forms of NSAIDs include diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen.

“Given that the onset of risk of acute myocardial infarction occurred in the first week and appeared greatest in the first month of treatment with higher doses, prescribers should consider weighing the risks and benefits of NSAIDs before instituting treatment, particularly for higher doses,” the researchers said.

Prior studies had pointed to an increase in heart attack risk from using NSAIDs, but this study looked at timing, dose and the duration of taking the medicine.

For the study, the researchers looked at past studies on NSAIDs from Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom. there were 446,763 people studied, and 61,460 had a heart attack.

“The study found that taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month, or more than a month was associated with an increased risk of heart attack,” researchers said in a statement.

The overall risk of heart attack was between 20 and 50 percent higher than those not using NSAIDs, the researchers said.

“To put this in perspective, as a result of this increase, the risk of heart attack due to NSAIDs is on average about one percent annually,” researchers wrote. “The type of analysis the researchers used allowed them to conclude with greater than 90 percent probability that all NSAIDs studied are associated with a heightened risk of heart attack.”

They added that the increased risk was higher with higher doses during the first month of use. The risk did not continue to increase over a longer treatment duration.

“It remains prudent to use NSAIDs for as short time as possible,” researchers wrote.

The researchers said the study did not consider other potential factors for increased risk of heart attack.

The study was published this week in BMJ.

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