|Ibuprofen (top) and Vioxx
London, June 2: Common painkillers such as ibuprofen can double the risk of suffering a heart attack, a study has found.
Research published in the British Medical Journal analysed results of 138 trials involving 140,000 patients over several years. It found that ibuprofen and diclofenac, two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), could cause attacks when taken in high doses.
The drugs have been previously noted for increasing heart attack risk but experts say that this is the biggest and most definitive study of its kind.
Vioxx, which is part of a group of anti-inflammatories known as COX-2 inhibitors, was banned in 2004 after it was shown that patients on the drug were more than twice as likely to have heart attacks as those not taking it.
The latest study showed that, as expected, COX-2 inhibitors doubled the risk of an attack but so did NSAIDs.
When all “vascular events” ' heart attacks, stroke, or vascular disease ' were taken together, the risks increased by 40 per cent on the drugs.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Rome carried out the study. They examined the results of all trials in which vascular events had been recorded for COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs. By combining the results, they were able to estimate the effects of these drugs more reliably than any individual trial.
They found that there were three more heart attacks per 1,000 people every year in those who did not already have heart disease but who were taking COX-2 inhibitors or NSAIDs.
Colin Baigent, who directed the research for the Medical Research Council, said that people should not panic at the findings ' which relate to the highest doses recommended by doctors. “The rate is three heart attacks in every 1,000 patients treated for a year,” he said.
“For a person who is unable to move unless they take these drugs, they may be willing to accept that risk if (the drug) is giving them back their life,” Baignet added.
Prof. Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study adds to the mounting body of evidence that taking high doses of NSAIDs increases the chances of having a heart attack. However, the increased risk is small and many patients with chronic debilitating pain may well feel that this small risk is worth taking to relieve their symptoms.”
The International Ibuprofen Foundation said: “The occasional and short-term use of ibuprofen for minor pain conditions, i.e. the way the majority of consumers use over-the-counter ibuprofen products, is not shown to be a risk factor.”