Taking Ibuprofen for straight seven days may increase risk of a heart attack

Taking Ibuprofen for straight seven days may increase risk of a heart attack: Ibuprofen may increase the risk of a heart attack if taken regularly on a weekly basis – a new study suggests. The heart attack, although there is a low risk of it,  is most likely to occur within the first month of consuming a high dose of Ibuprofen or other common painkillers as new research suggests.

The medicine, available in supermarkets, is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug [NSAID]. Researchers led by Michèle Bally of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada wrote that “Taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month, or more than a month was associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction [heart attack].”

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal analysed a data set of almost 450,000 people, of which 61,460 suffered a heart attack.

Researchers focused on the effect of taking three common anti-inflammatory painkillers over time; Ibuprofen, Diclofenac and Naproxen, along with two others called Celecoxib and Rofecoxib.

While these jumps are small, since the average likelihood of a heart attack is approximately one per cent a year for those taking NSAIDs, patients with heart disease or related conditions such as diabetes are at a higher risk.

However, Dr Bally told the Independent that even the smallest increase of a heart attack risk is extremely important when it comes to public health, since the usage of such medicines is widespread and common. She said that “If an individual’s risk of heart attack is one per cent it increases to 1.25 per cent, they don’t care,”“But at a population level, it’s important, and if people want to contribute to public health, they might wish to make more informed choices.”

Researchers from Canada, Germany and Finland found that if the drugs were used for longer it did not increase the risk in comparison with shorter usage. Both people who had taken a low dose and a high dose of drugs-over 1200 mg or three maximum strength tablets of Ibuprofen per day, were studied. The dose was over 100mg for Diclofenac, and over 750g for Naproxen.

According to Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, “This large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs.” Dr Knapton said it was previously known that these drugs increase chances of a heart attack, further saying “Whether you are being prescribed painkillers like Ibuprofen, or buying them over the counter, people must be made aware of the risk and alternative medication should be considered where appropriate.”

Researchers had informed in 2013 that a high annual dosage of Ibuprofen and Diclofenac, used by thousands of arthritis patients in the UK, could lead to one fatal and three avoidable heart attacks. Naproxen, on the other hand, is available through prescription for arthritis and back pain and over the counter for menstrual pain, while Diclofenac used to be available over the counter till 2015 in the UK but is now available through prescription only. Sale of over the counter painkillers totalled to approximately £600 million in the UK in 2015.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said “This study builds on research highlighting the risks involved in using NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, to treat pain – and it’s important that as new research is published, it is taken on board to inform the clinical guidelines that support our work.” He also said that “This study should also raise awareness amongst patients who self-medicate with NSAIDs that are available over the counter, to treat their pain.”

Meanwhile, Professor Jane Mitchell, Head of Cardiothoracic Pharmacology at Imperial College London, said “This is an observational study so it cannot say whether these painkillers actually cause heart attacks, but it does give more information about an association we knew about from previous studies.” She said that while we may not know what potential underlying mechanisms could be, “research has suggested it might involve these drugs blocking a hormone in the body called prostacyclin which protects our blood vessels, protects the kidney and thins the blood.” However, more research is needed to know if that is indeed the cause, she said.

..This article originally appeared on Independent..

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