January 25, 2012 — A new study has found that people who take ibuprofen and other NSAID painkillers at high doses for long periods of time are three times more likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack, and death.
The researchers stress that taking an ibuprofen occasionally for a headache is not likely to cause harm, but people who take high doses of the medication for chronic pain may want to consider talking to their doctor about using another type of painkiller.
The group most likely to be affected by this new research is older people who take painkillers for chronic, long-term pain, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland looked at more than 31 clinical trials that involved 116,429 patients, all of whom had been taking painkillers. The researchers looked at seven commonly-used painkilling medications.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are some of the most commonly-used medications for the treatment of pain, reduction of fever, and the treatment of mild to moderate pain. These medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and more.
- Ibuprofen, an NSAID painkilling medication, was shown to increase the risk of stroke by three times. It also significantly increased the risk of heart attacks and death.
- Rhumalgan (diclofenac), an arthritis medication, was shown to almost triple the risk of stroke and increased the risk of death caused by heart disease by a four-fold rate
The researchers looked at people who were taking a painkiller three or four times per day, at relatively high doses. People at high risk of heart attack, stroke, and death took doses of the medications up to 2,000 mg per day, every day, for several months or even years.
Most people are at minimal risk, because they only take the medications at high doses for short periods of time to treat acute pain. People with chronic pain, however, may he at higher risk of suffering problems.
The most common users of high-dose long-term painkillers were people who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, which are inflammatory diseases that affect the delicate tissue between the joints in a person’s body. These conditions can be extremely painful, and many people take an NSAID to treat the inflammatory, painful symptoms of these diseases.
People who take a painkiller for arthritis or osteoarthritis tend to be in their later years. A stroke, heart attack, or other heart problem can be devastating and disabling for an older person.