Risk of heart attack on common painkillers highest in first month of use, study finds

MONTREAL — Common painkillers — like Advil or Aleve — may provide quick-relief for headaches or minor injuries, but a recent study finds that people who pop these pills regularly may be at a greater risk of suffering a heart attack.

Researchers at McGill University in Canada say that the risk of heart attack while using these painkillers increased with dosage size and was at its highest in the first month of ongoing use. The drugs the authors point to specifically in the study are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): ibuprofen (Advil), diclofenac (Voltaren), celecoxib (Celebrex), and naproxen (Aleve).

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A recent study found that regularly taking common painkillers like ibuprofen increase one’s risk of suffering from a heart attack, particularly in the first month of use.

The research team analyzed several healthcare databases in Canada, Finland, and the United Kingdom, recording results on more than 446,000 people. Of that sample, 61,460 suffered a heart attack.

Previous research found that certain NSAIDs contributed to higher incidents of myocardial infarction (heart attack), but the timing of the risk, the effects of dose level, and treatment duration were not well understood.

The results of the latest study revealed that taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month, or more than a month increased the risk of heart attack. Overall, the risk of heart attack increased in patients by between 20 and 50 percent if using NSAIDs versus not using any kind of pain medication.

The risk of heart attack was also at its greatest during the first month of use.

“Given that the onset of risk of acute myocardial infarction occurred in the first week and appeared greatest in the first month of treatment with higher doses, prescribers should consider weighing the risks and benefits of NSAIDs before instituting treatment, particularly for higher doses,” the researchers conclude.

The authors do note that the findings of this study were observational and that “not all potentially influential factors were taken into account.”

The study’s findings were published in The BMJ in May.


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