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Common painkillers 'could increase heart failure risk'

Common painkillers 'could increase heart failure risk'
29th September 2016

Some common painkillers could lead to an increased risk of heart failure, according to experts. Certain painkillers that are commonly used by millions of people throughout the UK could be putting them at risk of heart health problems.

NSAIDs - which stands for non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - can increase the chances of developing heart problems resulting in hospital admittance. This includes over-the-counter options like ibuprofen.

Other studies have found a link between this type of drug and abnormal heart rhythm, as well as a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke following regular use. Continued abnormal heart rhythm can result in heart failure, meaning that even slight changes in heart function can be a warning sign.

This type of drug, along with selective COX-2 inhibitors, which are a subgroup of anti-inflammatories, are commonly used as a pain control method and to reduce inflammation. They are both commonly taken by those suffering with ailments like arthritis, which is a common ailment that affects older people who may already be at risk of heart problems.

The study - which was published in the British Medical Journal - looked at data for 10 million people from the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands who use NSAIDS and started their treatment between the years 2000 and 2010. In total, the group had 92,163 hospital admissions specifically for heart failure.

Those who had taken any form of NSAID within 14 days experienced a 19 per cent higher risk of heart failure leading to hospital admission when compared to those who had used the drugs at any point in the past.

Overall, hospital admission for the treatment of heart failure was found to be more likely for seven NSAIDs: ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin, piroxicam, ketorolac, nimesulide and diclofenac. It was also increased when people took two COX-2 inhibitors: rofecoxib and etoricoxib. Hospital admission risks went from 16 per cent for naproxen up to 83 per cent ketorolac.

According to the researchers, the use of etoricoxib, piroxicam, indomethacin, diclofenac and rofecoxib at high doses doubled the risk of heart failure leading to hospital admission. However, they said that these findings should be interpreted carefully.

Medium doses of etoricoxib and indomethacin were found to result in an increased risk of heart problems. However, researchers did not find any evidence to suggest that commonly used doses of celecoxib led to an increased risk of heart failure.

The researchers stated that their study "offers further evidence that the most frequently used individual traditional NSAIDs and selective COX 2 inhibitors are associated with an increased risk of hospital admission for heart failure. Moreover, the risk seems to vary between drugs and according to the dose."

This study suggests that more care may be needed when it comes to over-the-counter medications, as the fact that NSAIDs are so widely available gives the impression that they are entirely safe. Many people use this form of drug as a common painkiller for any number of ailments, but the study's results show that this may not be the best practice, particularly for those who are already at risk of heart failure.