It has been reported that NSAID’s (Non Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) painkillers taken regularly by up to 9 million people in the UK mainly for conditions such as arthritis, can double the risk of heart attack.
The study by the British Medical Council and published in the British Medical Journal focused on the two most commonly used pain killers ibuprofen and diclofenac. The study involved 140,000 patients and results discovered that ibuprofen and diclofenac could cause heart attacks when taken in high doses of 800 mg. There were three extra heart attacks a year for every 1000 people taking the drugs who did not have existing heart diseases. This is double the normal risk. For people with already existing heart problems, the risks increased still further.
Doctors stressed that the risks of these painkillers were only associated with high doses, usually only taken by arthritis sufferers, of which there are eight million in the UK. Some arthritis suffers need to take up to eight NSAID’s a day (2,4000mg).
As a result doctors were today advising that arthritis sufferers should try and seek alternatives to painkillers and only use the drugs when they felt it was absolutely necessary. Quoted in the Daily Mail, Dr Madeleine Devey, scientific advisor to the charity Arthritis Care, said “These are fairly safe drugs for short-term use, but patients should be encouraged to try other medications where they can.”
This follows a report last month that another common type of painkiller, taken by many arthritis sufferers, called Cox 2 inhibitor drugs were 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. The main culprit in this study was the drug Celebrex, which some doctors have recommended should be withdrawn from sale. Another Cox 2 inhibitor drug, Vioxx, has already been withdrawn from eth market amid fears that it increases the risk of heart attacks.
Professor Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart Foundation said today, “This study adds to the mounting body of evidence that taking high doses of NSAIDs increases the chances of having a heart attack.”
Today’s worrying news is bad news for the many arthritis sufferers who might be left wondering what exactly they can safely use to help manage their pain.
But it’s not all bad news. There are alternatives to NSAID’s which have been found in trials to be at least as effective as NSAID’s or, in the case of the new break-through treatment Celafen, more effective.