Common Painkillers Killing More Than Pain

We all take various forms of anti-inflammatory drugs. These common painkillers (also known as NSAIDs) take form in our medicine cabinets as Tylenol, Advil, and other ibuprofen tablets.

Well this new study suggests that taking these medications actually puts us at a greater risk for heart problems. Taking 2,400 miligrams of ibuprofen (or 150 miligrams of diclofenac) daily increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death by about one-third. That’s a lot!

Granted, 2,400 miligrams on ibuprofen is about 240 Tylenol pills, which translates to about 120 servings since most take 2 at a time. No one takes that much in a single day.

But still – 1/3 increase of heart attacks, strokes, and death? That’s scary! NSAIDs are also suspected of causing bleeding ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues.

Colin Baigent, with the University of Oxford, urges physicians to take (family) history of heart problem into account when suggesting medications.

“Because NSAIDs sometimes are a crucial part of one’s quality of life, the more we understand about dosing, duration and risk becomes important so we [can] determine which is the best choice—especially for patients with heart disease or those who are at risk,” says expert Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum with Lenox Hill Hospital.

The analysis was conducted on 353,000 patients. For every 1,000 patients, 3 had avoidable heart attacks (after taking high doses of NSAIDs for the duration of a year). One of those heart attacks would be fatal.

While this research does open up a lot of questions, there is also no cause-and-effect relationship discovered. NSAIDs don’t necessarily CAUSE these problems, but it is surely something to keep an eye on. Further research will include the risk of lower doses, the effect of tolerance on the drugs, and residual effects if treatment was stopped. For more information on the study and NSAIDs, check out the article here.