Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of medications sold under brands like Motrin and Advil.
NSAIDs are big solutions for aches, pains, fevers, and headaches. Sometimes prescribed in higher doses than over-the-counter varieties, children, adults, and even infants take these painkillers.
However, those taking NSAIDs might have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, per a recent CNN report. The medication is notorious for leading to bleeding and ulcers of the stomach and intestines. The risk is higher when one takes NSAIDs for extended amounts of time, is sick, or drinks more than three alcoholic beverages per day.
Risk Increases in First 30 Days
Research suggests the increase of a heart attack or stroke occurs within the first 30 days of taking NSAIDs. Of 100 people treated continuously with NSAIDs each year, only one would have a heart attack.
The Science is not Exact
One item mentioned by BBC is that scientists admit their findings are not clear. Some factors influence a person’s risk, so taking NSAIDs does not necessarily mean one would develop ulcers or a heart attack instantly. Also, factors outside of taking these over-the-counter pills might influence heart attack rates.
Instead, the study looked at more than 400,000 people to understand why a heart issue arises as a result of taking NSAIDs. They homed in on patients with prescriptions for NSAIDs by physicians, rather than those who took them over the counter. Prescribed versions are notoriously higher in dosages, which also accounts for the increased risk compared to the over-the-counter version – which more consumers take than prescription form.
The research built on previous research after the World Health Organization revealed that the leading cause of deaths globally came from cardiovascular diseases. Each year, more than 700,000 Americans have heart attacks – and more than 200,000 in the UK are hospitalized for them.
Past research revealed that painkillers increased the risk of a major heart attack, also know as myocardial infarction. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration required that warning labels be updated with the increased risk of stroke or heart attack on over-the-counter medications.
However, the numbers do not indicate the timing, dosage, and treatment longevity regarding risk. These are rather critical factors to consider, because a patient taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen would obviously have different risks than a patient taking 200 mg.
The team reviewed data from European and Canadian databases, too – not the United States. Therefore, these numbers do not assess the risk of American patients and prescribed NSAIDs.
Researchers reviewed the short-term use and long-term use in the study and the doses of the medications – including how often a person might use them.
The team worked to eliminate issues that clinical studies might not recognize, especially with on and off usage typical of a consumer.
Higher, Not Lowered Risks of Heart Attack
A common myth that naproxen has the lowest risk for a heart attack is untrue, says scientists. Instead, all NSAIDs carry the same MI risk and any dosage for one week or longer increases that risk. The risk declines when NSAID usage stops, too.
The study, published in the BMJ, suggests physicians should weigh the harm of prescription the drugs before prescribing these medications. Also, minimizing risks of the over-the-counter medications would help reduce numbers of heart attacks associated with NSAIDs. After all, most consumers fail to read labels on their over-the-counter medications – specifically those warning of heart attack or other risks when used frequently.