An international team of scientists carried out the research. They analysed the medical data from 446,763 people to decipher what can trigger a heart problem and when.
The scientists also made it clear that a range of other factors whilst taking the pills – not just the pills – could trigger a heart attack/stroke. Smoking and obesity can cause a heart attack.
The research suggests that the risk could be intense in the first 30 days of taking the drugs.
NSAID – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – are analgesic and antipyretic drugs. They become anti-inflammatory on higher doses.
Whether bought over-the-counter or prescribed, the risk is same.
Drugs such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen are common NSAIDs. They are used regularly for conditions like flu, headaches, back pain and menstrual cramps.
Ibuprofen particularly placed patients at a higher risk of a heart problem. The maximum recommended dose for adults is about 1,600mg (4 x 400mg daily). Taking about 1200mg daily falls within the range but still deemed harmful to the health.
The scientist found that patients who took ibuprofen for a week had a 48% chance of having a heart attack. When taken for up to a month increased the risk to a 75% risk.
Those who took celecoxib were rated at a 24% risk; diclofenac at 50%, naproxen at 53% while refecoxib had 58% heart attack risk.
The study also showed that when patients stopped taking the different types of NSAIDs, there was about 11% decline in the heart attack risks.
“The study also showed that after patients had taken their last prescribed dose of an NSAID, their risk of having a heart attack then decreased over time back to normal levels of risk.”
With the latest discovery, doctors are advised to consider alternative painkillers in their prescriptions.
Dr Mike Knapton, an associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation said:
“Whether you are being prescribed painkillers like ibuprofen, or buying them over the counter, people must be made aware of the risk and alternative medication should be considered where appropriate,”
In the case of an over-the-counter NSAIDs, patients are likely not at an increased risk since they are used for a short period of time.
Generally speaking, using NSAIDs gives a 20%-50% heart attack risk compared to not using them all. However the study did not show or explain how the drugs could increase the risk of a heart attack.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 cause of deaths in the world. Statistics from the agency shows that 80% of all deaths in this category due to heart attacks and strokes.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs also said:
“These drugs can be effective in providing short-term pain relief for some patients – what is important is that any decision to prescribe is based on a patient’s individual circumstances and medical history, and is regularly reviewed.”
About 190,000 people a year go to hospital due to heart attacks in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.