Taking painkillers increases death risk, second heart attacks in survivors

September 10, 2012

Heart attack survivors who take common painkillers after a heart attack have a higher long-term risk of dying or having a second heart attack, according to a new study published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

The , known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), include over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and and such as (celecoxib), which is used to treat conditions including arthritis.

"It is important to get the message out to clinicians taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease that NSAIDs are harmful, even several years after a ," said Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, M.D., the study's lead author and a fellow in the cardiology department at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte in Denmark.

Schjerning Olsen and her colleagues used national hospital and pharmacy registries in Denmark to identify almost 100,000 people 30 or older who had a first heart attack between 1997 and 2009, and to see if they were prescribed NSAIDs afterwards.

Forty-four percent of the patients filled at least one NSAID prescription. Among those receiving an NSAID, risk of death from any cause was 59 percent higher one year after their heart attack, and 63 percent higher after five years.

Similarly, risk of having another heart attack or dying from was 30 percent higher one year later and 41 percent higher after five years. The findings considered other illnesses and medication use in the NSAID patients, as well as differences in age, sex, income and year of hospitalization.

"The results support previous findings suggesting that NSAIDs have no apparent safe treatment window among , and show that coronary risk related to using the drugs remains high, regardless of the time that has passed since the heart attack," Schjerning Olsen said.

Normally, patients who have a heart attack face higher risk of death or another heart attack within the first year. But the extra risk is gone within five to 10 years.

Because the new study instead showed a persistently higher risk over at least five years for patients on the drugs, "long-term caution with any use of NSAIDS is advised in all patients after heart attack," Schjerning Olsen said.

A 2007 statement urged doctors to carefully weigh risks versus benefits when considering NSAID use in patients with a history or high risk of cardiovascular disease.

These data showed no difference in risk for men versus women. Because researchers used nationwide data, the findings extend across races, age, income groups and hospitals.

Researchers didn't test the drugs' effects in a controlled clinical trial, so the study didn't definitely show that NSAIDs, rather than other unknown factors, cause additional deaths or heart attacks. But the researchers consider NSAIDs the likely culprit behind the higher risk.

Use of should be limited and their over-the-counter availability should be re-evaluated, Schjerning Olsen said.

"Allowing a drug to be sold without prescription must be perceived by the general public as a strong signal of safety, and may be contrary in this case," she said.

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4 comments

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Smashin_Z_1885
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2012
Note that Cannabis (marijuana) is also a painkiller, yet, it causes no harm to the human body. Further, it has already been known that synthetic pharmaceuticals are dangerous to human health, so this article is really nothing new. It has been know, however, that Cannabis has been in use for over 4500 years, with no adverse health effects. In fact, it is beneficial to overall health. Is it not clear, then, why synthetic drugs, while dangerous, are perfectly legal, yet, a natural herb such as cannabis is illegal in most countries?
Smashin_Z_1885
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
Some argue that indeed, Cannabis is an effective analgesic pain reliever, but, the side effect is that the user will 'get high', or may 'become hungry' (the munchies). I'd say those side effects are quite benign compared to destroying your heart and arteries with Nsaids.
Smashin_Z_1885
1 / 5 (1) Sep 11, 2012
Cannabis, right now, could replace the following synthetic drugs: 1) Nsaids, and all other similar drugs such as aspirin and tylenol, 2) Broncho-dialaters (asthma inhalers), 3) arthritis medications of all types (weed cures it in a two-fold fashion: a) powerful anti-inflammatory, and b) stops the immune system from attacking the bodies own joint tissues, 4) Nicotine and alcohol addiction (weed causes changes in the brain (while high), that inhibit the cravings for nicotine and alcohol; therefore, continuous low-dosing of weed can easily stop nicotine and alcohol cravings.
Smashin_Z_1885
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
In the 1880's, you could buy cannabis tonics at the drug store legally. Also, various type of candy were available, as well as plain old weed in it's natural form (for smoking or use in food). We knew the value of it for so many ailments, and still do.

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