Popular Pain Killers Linked to Heart Problems

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as over-the-counter Aleve, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/motrin">Motrin, Advil, aspirin, and ibuprofen and prescription medications that include COX-2 inhibitors including <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/celebrex">Celebrex (generic: celecoxib), have been linked to increased risks for heart failure, death, and even, most recently, erectile dysfunction (ED).

Now, said US News, emerging research—the first of its kind—has linked the ubiquitous pain killers with atrial fibrillation, a cardiac disorder that involves heart rhythm issues linked to increased stroke risks. The study appears online in the July 4 issue of the journal BMJ.

The Danish research team studied 32,602 patients who had a first diagnosis of atrial fibrillation between 1999 and 2008, said US News. Every patient was compared with 10 age- and gender-matched controls derived from Denmark’s general population, US News added.

The study results found that use of NSAIDs was linked with increased atrial fibrillation risks. The strongest connections appeared in new NSAID users, with a massive 70 percent increased risk apparent in COX-2 inhibitors, said US News. A 40 percent increased risk was seen in nonselective NSAIDS.

The researchers, from Aarhus University Hospital, said that the increased risk compares to about 7 additional atrial fibrillation cases for every 1,000 new COX-2 inhibitor users and about 4 additional cases for 1,000 new NSAID users, wrote US News. The team also found that an increased risk was seen in older patients and patients suffering from chronic kidney disease or rheumatoid arthritis beginning treatment with COX-2 inhibitors, explained US News.

“Our study thus adds evidence that atrial fibrillation or flutter need to be added to the cardiovascular risks under consideration when prescribing NSAIDs,” the researchers concluded, quoted US News. “There is evidence that these medicines affected the heart, but [we] did not have evidence that it affected the rhythm of the heart. This study sheds light on another problem that we did not know with these medicines,” said Dr. Furqan Tejani, director of advanced cardiovascular imaging at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, in a statement.

The prior California Men’s Health Study, initiated in 2002, enrolled what MedScape previously described as a “large, ethnically diverse cohort” of men from Kaiser Permanente’s managed care health plans ages 45-69. That study found a clear ED link to NSAIDs. “These data suggest that regular NSAID use is associated with ED even after extensive adjustment for age and potentially confounding factors or comorbidities,” the study authors wrote.”

In 2004, the COX-2 inhibitor (rofecoxib) was withdrawn from the market after a trial found that the drug increased risks for cardiovascular disease. Since, there has been much debate about the cardiovascular safety of COX-2 inhibitors and traditional NSAIDs. US News also pointed out that a study published in the July 2010 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that healthy people taking NSAIDs for routine pain could be at increased risks for heart issues and death. Also, said US News, a 2011 review of prevailing research revealed that NSAIDs taken for inflammation can increase risks for heart attack, stroke, or death. That research looked at a review of 31 clinical NSAID trials and suggested that cardiovascular risks should be reviewed before prescribing NSAIDs. The study appeared in January 2011’s BMJ.

NSAIDs are the most popularly used and prescribed medication, with five percent of all physician visits in the U.S. involving a prescription for an NSAID, noted Arthritis Today previously.

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