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Painkillers 'increase' heart attack risk

2nd June 2006

Taking high doses of common painkillers such as ibuprofen can double a person's risk of having a heart attack, according to new medical research.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal claims that ibuprofen and a second non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), diclofenac, can prompt attacks when taken in large amounts.

Fears have previously been raised that long term use of anti-inflammatory drugs, which are prescribed to treat patients in chronic pain such as those with arthritis, can increase the risk of cardiac arrest.

But researchers claim that the new study provides the biggest and most definitive examination of the link.

Researchers examined the results of 138 trials in which "vascular events" had been recorded in relation to the use of COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs.

They found that when all "vascular events" - heart attacks, stroke, or vascular disease - were taken together, the risks increased by 40 per cent on the drugs.

Commenting on the results of the study, which involved 140,000 patients, director of the research Dr Colin Baigent said: "It supersedes all the previous work that has been done in this area. Until now, doctors have been very confused."

"We have looked at all the evidence that has ever been done and our report is hopefully going to help doctors assess these drugs."