Ouch — common painkillers increase your risk of heart failure

Prescription Medicine

Common prescription painkillers could lead to heart failure. (URUPHONGK/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO)

Yet another common painkiller could possibly kill you.

Prescription-strength ibuprofen, naproxen and other anti-inflammatory drugs may raise your risk of heart failure almost 20%, according to a new BMJ report.

Previous studies noticed a correlation between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly called NSAIDs, and patients being hospitalized for heart failure. Related anti-inflammatories called COX-2 inhibitors were also implicated.

So Italian investigators set out to estimate the actual risk by analyzing almost 10 million NSAID users from four European countries between 1999 and 2010. And they found that several traditional NSAIDs (including diclofenac, ibuprofen, indomethacin, ketorolac, naproxen, nimesulide and piroxicam) and two COX 2 inhibitors (etoricoxib and rofecoxib) were related to higher heart failure rates. And very high doses of ibuprofen and diclofenac even doubled those odds.

More research is needed to determine absolute risks, cause-and-effect, or whether lower over-the-counter doses of these drugs are also dangerous.

Doctor with Prescription Medication

Prescription-strength anti-inflammatory NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are linked with heart failure. (DOLGACHOV/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO)

“Although over-the-counter NSAIDs are typically used at lower doses and for shorter durations, they are sometimes available at the same doses as prescription NSAIDs and they may be inappropriately overused,” warned study author Andrea Arfe, a Ph.D. student at University of Milano-Bicocca. So users should follow dosage directions carefully when taking these drugs.

“NSAIDs pose a clear risk to some patients and tighter regulation is justified,” wrote two Danish heart experts in a linked editorial. And their wide availability over the counter “further fuels the common misconception that NSAIDs are harmless drugs that are safe for everyone.”

This comes on the heels of repeated reports that the pain reliever acetaminophen, which is used in more than 600 over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs including Tylenol and DayQuil, carries dangerous side effects. They include liver failure when taken too much, usually by mixing different medicines containing the drug. And recent studies warned can cause behavior problems in children when taken by nursing mothers.

– Nicole Lyn Pesce, New York Daily News
September 29, 2016

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The abuse of opioid pain medication has a devastating impact on public health and safety in this country, killing 46 people every day… Prescription Drug poisoning deaths – now over 30,000/yr – outnumber deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

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The AAOS recommends the following tools, which have been shown to significantly reduce medication errors:

  • computerized physician order entry
  • computerized decision support systems
  • computerized monitoring of adverse drug events
  • pharmacist-assisted rounds
  • high-risk drug protocols

Overdose deaths are “just the tip of the iceberg”: that for every death there are many more hospital treatment admissions, emergency room visits, people who abuse or are dependent on prescription drugs and nonmedical users.

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Rick Bunker is a co-founder, and the CEO of Prescription Advisory Systems and Technology (P.A.S.T.). In this role, he is responsible for capital formation and corporate development.

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