September 11, 2012

Heart Attack Survivors Should Be Leery Of Taking Ibuprofen

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Taking painkillers increases your risk of death if you are a heart attack survivor, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.

Scientists found that those heart attack survivors who take painkillers not only increased their chances of having a second heart attack, but also increased their risk of dying.

Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as prescription drugs like Celebrex, are the risky drugs to take if you´re a heart attack survivor.

"It is important to get the message out to clinicians taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease that NSAIDs are harmful, even several years after a heart attack," Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, M.D., the study's lead author, said in a statement.

The team used national hospital and pharmacy registries in Denmark to identify nearly 100,000 people, 30 or older, who had their first heart attack between 1997 and 2009.

Forty-four percent of the patients in the study filled at least one prescription of the painkillers that fall into the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Those receiving an NSAID had a 59% higher risk of death one year after their heart attack and a 63% higher risk five years after.

The risk of having another heart attack or dying from coronary artery disease was 30% higher one year later, and 41% higher after five years, according to the findings.

During the study, the researchers considered other illnesses and medication used in the NSAID patients, as well as differences in age, sex, income and year of hospitalization.

"The results support previous findings suggesting that NSAIDs have no apparent safe treatment window among heart attack patients, and show that coronary risk related to using the drugs remains high, regardless of the time that has passed since the heart attack," Schjerning Olsen said in statement.

Patients who have a heart attack face higher risk of death or another heart attack within the first year, but the extra risk is typically gone within 5 to 10 years.

Schjerning Olsen said that because the new study showed a persistently higher risk over at least five years for patients on the drugs, "long-term caution with any use of NSAIDs is advised in all patients after heart attack."

A statement by the American Heart Association in 2007 urged doctors to carefully weigh risks versus benefits when considering NSAIDs use in patients with a history of high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Because researchers used nationwide data, the findings extend across races, age, income groups and hospitals.

The team didn't test the drugs' effects in a controlled clinical trial, so the study didn't show that NSAIDs, rather than other unknown factors, cause additional deaths or heart attacks. However, the researchers believe that NSAIDs are the likely culprit.

Schjerning Olsen said the use of the painkillers should be limited and their over-the-counter availability should be re-evaluated.

"Allowing a drug to be sold without prescription must be perceived by the general public as a strong signal of safety, and may be contrary in this case," she said in the statement.