New researched has emerged that prescription strength non-steroid anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkillers may be responsible for a higher risk of heart failure. 

The study was authored by Andrea Arfe, a Ph.D. student at University of Milano-Bicocca, in Italy, who found that a person’s risk for heart failure can double with the use of some NSAID. These include diclofenac (Cataflam or Voltaren), etoricoxib (Arcoxia), indomethacin (Indocin), and piroxicam (Feldene).

Arfe and his team examined the medical files of of nearly 10 million patients from the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands from 1999 to 2010. They found that even common NSAIDs used at prescription doses, like naproxen and ibuprofen could up the risk of heart failure by as much as 20%.

Although this only proves a link to between heart failure and NSAIDs, it does not imply causation. However, doctors have suspected for a while that they may cause heart problems.

Dr. Christopher O’Connor, who serves as chief executive officer of the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Falls Church, Va, stated:

“These drugs have been around for a long time, and they have important pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties, but they also have cardiovascular side effect. They have been shown to hold onto sodium, and there’s some reduction in kidney function.”

While researchers aren’t sure why the NSAIDs up the risk of heart failure, they found that seven of them drastically increased the risk one faced of heart failure. It was found that when people were prescribed an NSAID, they had a 19% increased risk of being hospitalized for heart failure. However, the team also discovered that COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex) does not prove a risk of heart failure if used at an appropriate dose. Because of this, the researchers are stating that this is an appropriate alternative.

Arfe and his team do not recommend not taking the medication if you are concerned about your risk of heart failure, but rather that you speak to the doctor about your concerns. Though Dr. Christopher O’Connor did add that even those who use NSAIDs over the counter should try and limit their use as much as possible.

Arfe stated:

“[This study] may have large public health consequences and they point to the need for further research to assess the safety of over-the-counter NSAIDs under the conditions they are typically used. Patients should adopt a prudent attitude and avoid over-using over-the-counter NSAIDs without seeking medical advice.”


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