How dangerous is your painkiller?

Scientists calculate the EXACT risk of having a heart attack or stroke if you take ibuprofen or four other popular tablets…

The heart dangers of ibuprofen, celecoxib, mefenamic acid, diclofenac and naproxen – taken by millions worldwide to dampen pain – have been assessed.

Taiwanese experts have concluded that the five different tablets could all affect the heart within four weeks, but some are more dangerous than others. They assessed the odds of a major cardiovascular event for each of the popular painkillers, using data from 56,00 adults with hypertension – high blood pressure.

They discovered, on average, one in 330 adults who have been taking ibuprofen will experience a heart attack or stroke within four weeks.

However, the drug, costing as little as 2p a tablet and available in corner shops, was found to be three times less dangerous than celecoxib, which will lead to one in 105 adults experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

The scientists found mefenamic acid posed the least threat, with just one in 394 users expected to suffer a stroke or heart attack.

One in 245 adults will suffer a cardiovascular event from taking diclofenac – banned from sale over-the-counter in the UK three years ago due to its heart dangers.

However, as many as one in 214 adults taking naproxen – which can be bought from pharmacies without prescription, could expect to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, highlight the known dangers of taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

An array of evidence has emerged in recent years, linking the widely taken drugs to heart attacks and cardiac arrest – which can kill within minutes.

But few studies published to date have been able to calculate the exact risk of major cardiovascular events between different NSAIDs.

Nearly 56,000 patients with hypertension – high blood pressure – were monitored by researchers at National Yang-Ming University, Taipei.

These patients are at an elevated risk of heart attacks and strokes, but are often unaware that taking common painkillers can boost their blood pressure further.

Major cardiovascular events were classed as when patients were hospitalised for stroke, heart attacks, TIAs and angina.

However, the scientists, led by Dr Yaa-Hui Dong, were keen to point out that there were no significant differences between the painkillers.

And they warned the only significant increased risk was observed when comparing celeocxib and mefenamic acid.

Dr Chia-Hsuin Chang, co-author of the study, said: ‘Our results provide important information about the comparative safety of alternative NSAID use in patients with hypertension in real-world settings.

‘Under low-to-moderate daily dose and a short-term treatment period, most commonly used NSAIDs have similar cardiovascular safety profiles.’

Some cardiologists have called for far tougher controls on NSAIDs amid worrying trials delving into their true dangers.

Professor Gunnar Gislason, from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, last year called for them to be only available in pharmacies.

He led a study that found people who take ibuprofen have a 31 per cent increased risk of cardiac arrest, researchers found.

Written by Stephen Matthews for The Daily Mail ~ February 23, 2018.

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