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Painkillers heighten heart attack risk

London, June 10: Painkillers, including ibuprofen, can significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack, researchers say today.

Their study, which looks at non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) follows similar concerns over another group of drugs called Cox2 inhibitors. These have been widely used to relieve the pain of arthritis and have been found to cause an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.

In the latest study, researchers from Nottingham University identified more than 9,000 men and women who had suffered first heart attacks and looked at their medication in the preceding four years.

They looked at whether these patients had been prescribed NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx). Ibuprofen was the only over-the-counter drug studied.

The worst risks were with diclofenac, a prescription painkiller, which increased the risk by 55 per cent.

The increased risk of a heart attack for those taking rofecoxib was 32 per cent. For ibuprofen it was 24 per cent and for celecoxib 21 per cent.

Julia Hippisley-Cox, professor of clinical epidemiology and general practice at Nottingham, said this meant for those over 65 taking diclofenac that one extra patient for every 521 would have a heart attack linked to the drug.

For those who had taken rofecoxib the figure was one patient at risk for every 695 taking the drug and for ibuprofen the figure was one for every 1,005 patients.

Hippisley-Cox said yesterday that the study, in the British Medical Journal, had not included aspirin. Aspirin is not normally given in high doses to relieve chronic pain because of the risk of causing stomach bleeding. “This was an observational study and not a trial and I don’t think patients should stop taking their drugs. But it does suggest that we should be looking carefully at the use of NSAIDs,” she said.

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