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

Follow Prescription Advisory

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.

American Psychological Association

A study was conducted to estimate the societal costs of prescription opioid abuse, dependence, and misuse in the United States. Costs were grouped into three categories: health care, workplace, and criminal justice.

The results: Total US societal costs of prescription opioid abuse were estimated at $55.7 billion in 2007 (USD in 2009). Workplace costs accounted for $25.6 billion, health care costs accounted for $25.0 billion, and criminal justice costs accounted for $5.1 billion. Workplace costs were driven by lost earnings from premature death ($11.2 billion) and reduced compensation/lost employment ($7.9 billion).

Conclusions: The costs of prescription opioid abuse represent a substantial and growing economic burden for the society. The increasing prevalence of abuse suggests an even greater societal burden in the future.

Pain Medicine, Volume 12, Issue 4, April 2011
Rick Bunker

Rick Bunker

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.
Rick Bunker
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