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Painkillers pose risk to weak hearts

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New studies show that the UK’s 8 million arthritis sufferers could be increasing their risk of heart attack through their use of NSAID’s.

BY Amy Anderson 15 June, 2007

Several studies carried out in the last year have highlighted possible dangers of taking high doses of painkillers, namely taken by the UK’s 8 million arthritis sufferers. The main concern appears to be the increased risk of heart attack and stroke among people who take regular high doses of NSAID’s (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs).A recent investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) into the safety of high dose painkillers has been commissioned because of these concerns. The EMA investigation will look into all types of NSAID’s currently prescribed mostly to arthritis sufferers.However some brands of painkillers, including ibuprofen, have already been investigated. In particular the Cox 2 inhibitor drug Celebrex has been found to double the risk of heart attack.Cox 2 inhibitors are a new generation of NSAID’s which cause less damage to the stomach lining than more traditional NSAID’s containing ibruprofen.

However news of the EMA investigation and the results of recent reports into new generation Cox 2 inhibitors, many arthritis suffers are loking for safe alternatives to painkillers to help manage their pain without putting their health at risk.

Unfortunately many arthritis sufferers are unable to tolerate older style ibruprofen pain killers due to the damage they do to the stomach and some doctors are now admitting there are limited options for arthritis sufferers when it comes to long-term pain management treatments for their condition.
Alison Bell, 41, a stay at home mum to three young children from Nottingham is married to Steve, 47, a credit card manager. Alison was taking the highest dose possible of painkillers for her arthritis until her mother read the news about the risk they posed to her heart. Her mother was terrified that Alison might be risking causing damage to her heart and insisted she look for an alternative because she already had a slightly weak heart from a viral infection when she was younger. It was after reading about Boswellia and Commiphora cream in a newspaper paper that Alison’s mother ordered some for her own arthritis and then recommended it to her daughter.

Alison Bell feeling much better

Alison says:

“When I started getting pain in my knee and hip about four months ago the thought that it might be arthritis didn’t cross my mind.”

My mother had just been diagnosed with it aged 60, which I thought was quite young, so there was no way I had it.”

But the more I tried to ignore it the worse it got. Being a mum to three children under the age of 10 (two of them are twins) means I have to be on my fete all the time.”

Within two months I was starting to find it hard to pick the twins up and playing with them in the park or every walking to school to collect them was starting to feel like a real feat. I felt like a woman of 90 years old not 40.”

As I am sure many busy mums will appreciate I simply didn’t get round to seeing my GP about the pain. I hate visiting the doctors anyway and finding the time to make an appointment just never seemed to happen.”

Instead I started taking ibuprofen from the chemists. Eventually I was on the maximum dose of eight a day because the pain was so bad. I could no longer sleep on my left side at night and I found it very hard to move my hips and knees for about an hour after I got up.”

When we visited mum for Christmas, she found out how many pain killers I was on and went mad, especially as I already have had heart problems due to a viral infection I had when I was younger. She hates pills at the best of times and was horrified that I was taking so many. She made me promise to stop taking them and ask my doctor ‘s advice.”

Mum and Dad left for holiday after Christmas and so I slipped back into taking the pain killers. When mum got back from holiday the first thing she asked me was about my problem and I had to admit to her it was just as bad as ever.”

A week later a pot of Boswellia & Commiphora cream arrived in the post with a note from mum telling to stop taking the pain killers and to start using this cream three times a day on the painful areas. I did as I was told, although I thought maybe she had gone a bit mad thinking a cream would work instead of pills.”

But sure enough within a week I noticed the pain starting to reduce. Within three weeks of using eth cream I had virtually not pain. I was also able to move much more easily when I got out of bed and walking to and from the twin’s nursery was no longer a feat of endurance.”

Now I would say I rarely feel much pain from my knee and hip. I have to be more careful than before about lugging the children about and I try to take it a little more easy these days. But on eth whole I can lead an active busy life without much pain or inconvenience due to my arthritis.”

This was the case for mother of two, Miryan Deschamps, 48, from London. Not only was Miryan worried about the risk to her heart after being prescribed high dose NSAID’s for her osteoarthritis in her knees, the pills also made her feel sick.Two years after an accident when she slipped on some oil, Miryan couldn’t walk down her stairs without crippling pain in her knees and walking any distance at all left her in agony.“When the pain became unbearable I finally went to see my doctor. I thought I had chipped the bone in my knee from the accident I thought maybe I’d need an x-ray, but tests later confirmed that I had osteoarthritis. I was really shocked when I was told it was arthritis, I thought I was too young.” says Miryan.Once her test results came back, Miryan was prescribed daily non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs for the pain.

“At first I was happy to take the drugs because they helped with the pain. But within a few months of taking them I began to feel sick. The nausea was really unpleasant but bearable, but one I had had time to reflect on my situation I felt extremely concerned about the thought of taking drugs for the rest of my life, especially if they were already starting to make me feel poorly.

“I was still relatively young and my husband looked on the internet where he found information about have negative side effects of NSAID (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs )such as damage to the stomach and also that they get less effective over time. Seeing as I was looking at taking them for at least 30 years or more, I decided to stop the drugs and find an alternative.”

Miryan tried several natural alternatives and therapies, including acupuncture. Although she saw small improvements, nothing was as effective as the NSAID she has been taking.

A year after being diagnosed with arthritis and in more or less constant pain unless she was taking painkillers, Miryan saw an advert in her local paper appealing for arthritis sufferers to join a trial on Celafen. Feeling she has nothing to loose and with encouragement from her husband who hated the idea of her having to take drugs again and feeling so ill, Miryan volunteered to join the trial.

“I wasn’t expecting miracles. I fact I wasn’t expecting much as all. So far most of the natural treatments I had tried had been very unimpressive. But seeing as the company making Celafen were actually bothering to get people with arthritis to try their treatment, I felt inclined to give it a go.”

Miryan started using the Celafen cream as soon as it arrived, she was asked to do a few exercises to assess her pain levels, before starting the cream, after 30 minutes,a few days and then again after a week.

“The first time I did the stair test just 30 minutes after applying the cream I still found it quite painful, although there was a definite improvement, it wasn’t agony. However on the second days did the stair test it was a lot easier, I was amazed how I was able to climb four stairs with virtually no pain at all. After a week of using the cream I was able to climb the whole set of stairs easily, with no pain. I had not been able to do that for almost two years without taking drugs to dull the pain. The cream had done more for me in a week than drugs had done in a year and I didn’t feel sick every day. I felt like my battle with pain was over. I’d recommend Celafen to anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with taking drugs for the rest of their lives. There is no doubt in my mind that it works, whether it’s as good as the drugs is hard to say, but it’s pretty close and seeing as its natural and free of any nasty side effects, I can’t see there is any down side to trying it. It worked for me and for most other people on the trial – so it’s bound to work for others too.”

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