22 May Common Painkillers Linked to Increased Risk of Heart attack, Study Says
Extensive research has associated the consumption of OTC painkillers or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) with increased risk of heart attack. Studies show 20% to 50% increase in risk after consuming such drugs. The drugs that have been identified in this group are diclofenac, acetaminophen, aspirin, hydrocodone, celecoxib, naproxen and ibuprofen, these are mostly prescribed for relief from pain or fever. The consumption of such painkillers can cause a heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction.
The epidemiologist, Dr. Michèle Bally from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, has lead this research and says risk levels can increase even after a week of using these medicines and was maximum after a month. There is also a decline in risk after the painkillers are no longer consumed, falling under 11% after 30 days. The risk is because of change in blood pressure and kidney function post consumption.
Dr. Bally says that doctors must be cautious and study the benefits and side effects of these medicines before prescribing them. Her team’s research is based on a study done in both Europe and Canada, with finding from 446,663 people. While consuming refecoxib, the risk was the highest when usage was for a week, followed by diclofenac, ibuprofen, and celecoxib, regardless of the dosage.
In the case of Naproxen, there is an increase of 75% in the risk of having a heart attack when 1200 milligrams is consumed each day for 30 days. The risk can be as high as 83% if 750 milligrams is consumed from 7 days to 30 days. When the medicine is consumed for more than 30 days this risk reduces. Dr. Bally states that these risks are calculated keeping the normal risk that a person has for heart attack, so even though it may be minuscule when considering a population, these risks are huge.
Dr. Knapton from the British Heart foundation has also reiterated the risk of consuming NSAIDs and asked that people be made aware of this risk and also informed of alternative treatments. He suggests yoga or physical therapy be used to ease the pain after an injury instead of such medications.
What one must remember is that these studies are only observational and are based on existing data about people. In these findings, all possible influential factors have not been taken into consideration.
According to Prof. Evans from the pharmacoepidemiology department at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a lot of lifestyle aspects and factors like BMI, smoking, Tabacco consumption, obesity, alcohol consumption, hypertension, unhealthy diet are not known for the people being studied, which leads to uncertainty.
As per Dr. Amitava a clinical lecturer (at UCL in the UK) even though Dr. Bally’s study may be the largest that has been done on the subject it is still observational and is purely based on dispensing and prescription and not on people actually consuming the pain killers.
The uncertainty stated by other doctors from around the globe means that the drugs cannot be directly related to the increase in the risk of heart attack but the association is certainly there.
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