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NSAID Pain Relievers Linked to Higher Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

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July 18, 2011

A new study has found that people with heart disease and high blood pressure who often take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and death.

Researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville studied records of more than 22,000 patients with hypertension and coronary artery disease enrolled in the INternational VErapamil Trandolapril STudy (INVEST). During INVEST, investigators asked patients about their NSAID use each week. 882 patients who continually reported NSAID use were defined chronic NSAID users, while 21,694 patients reporting intermittent or no use were considered non-chronic users.

Names of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Diclofenac
  • Etodolac
  • Fenoprofen
  • Flurbiprofen
  • Indomethacin
  • Meclofenamate
  • Mefenamic Acid
  • Meloxicam
  • Nabumetone
  • Oxaprozin
  • Piroxicam
  • Sulindac
  • Tolmetin
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)

Common over the counter brand name NSAID medications include Aleve, Motrin and Advil.

Researchers found that those patients in the “chronic” group who used NSAIDs regularly had a 47 percent higher rate of death, nonfatal heart attack or nonfatal stroke than non-chronic NSAID users. After five years of follow-up, the percent of risk rose to 126 percent for death and 66 percent for heart attack in chronic users.

“Among coronary artery disease patients with hypertension, chronic self-reported use of NSAIDs was associated with harmful outcomes, and this practice should be avoided where possible,” said Dr. Anthony A. Bavry, study researcher and assistant professor of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Florida.

The study entitled “Harmful Effects of NSAIDs among Patients with Hypertension and Coronary Artery Disease” appears in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

In 2010, another study found that healthy people taking NSAIDs might increase their risk of heart attack and stroke. HealthDay reported that researchers in Denmark studied people taking rofecoxib (Vioxx), diclofenac, celecoxib, naproxen and ibuprofen and found the risk of heart attack increased substantially with all except naproxen and celecoxib.

The manufacturer of Vioxx voluntarily removed the drug from the market in the United States in 2004 after studies showed an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.