The common painkiller in question belongs to a group of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and in the new study published in the March 2017 issue of the European Society of Cardiology
journal, researchers found a link between NSAIDS, including ibuprofen, and an increase in cardiac arrests.
“Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe,” said author Professor Gunnar H. Gislason, professor of cardiology at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, Denmark.
Prof Gislason said: “Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice, or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe."
Professor Gislason cited a previous study that had also shown a link between NSAIDS and heart disease, but he points out that this study focused primarily on NSAIDw and their impact on cardiac arrest risks. "The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless," he said.
The professor suggests these painkillers should only be taken when absolutely necessary,
and then caution should be used, while people with cardiovascular disease and other heart associated problems should avoid them altogether. “Diclofenac and ibuprofen, both commonly used drugs, were associated with a 31 percent increased risk of cardiac arrest in the study," he added.
The study involved analyzing the records of 28,000 people in Denmark who had a cardiac arrest somewhere other than a hospital during a 10-year period. The research team looked at the person's use of NSAIDs in a 30-day period before the cardiac arrest, calling this a "case period."
They then looked at information covering another 30-day period that took place before the start of the "case period." They then compared the findings. To identify the NSAIDs used, they looked at whether or not people had used a prescription for NSAIDs, including diclofenac, naproxen, ibuprofen, rofecoxib, and celecoxib (In Denmark, a prescription is needed for these products).
Based on information from the records on usage and daily doses, the team was able to calculate if NSAIDs had been taken during the "case period" and any other dosing information. Among the patients in the study, 3,376 were treated with an NSAID during the 30-day period before their cardiac arrest.
Ibuprofen was linked to a 31 percent increase
in cardiac arrests and diclofenac was linked with a 50 percent increase in the risk of cardiac arrest. No link with the use of naproxen, celecoxib or rofecoxib was found with cardiac arrest, although the study suggests this may be because those three NSAIDs weren't prescribed as much as the others.
The study also points out that it is limited in saying that only "a link" was found showing an increase in cardiac arrests, and they are not saying NSAIDs cause cardiac arrest. And because ibuprofen is the only NSAID allowed to be sold over-the-counter in Denmark, it could be that more people in the study may have been taking ibuprofen and it wasn't reported.