Pain Relievers Tied to Immediate Heart Risks

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The pain relievers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or Nsaids, are known to carry heart risks. A new analysis found that those risks can arise within a week of starting the drugs.

Researchers did a systematic review of studies involving more than 446,000 people ages 40 to 79, of whom more than 61,000 had heart attacks.

In those who used Nsaids one to seven days, the risk of heart attack increased 24 percent for celecoxib (Celebrex), 48 percent for ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), 50 percent for diclofenac (Voltaren), and 53 percent for naproxen (Aleve). The increase for rofecoxib (Vioxx), which was taken off the market in 2004 because of its cardiovascular risks, was 58 percent.

The study, in BMJ, found that the risk increases with higher doses and duration of treatment, but there was no significant increase in risk after one month of taking the drugs.

The lead author, Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital, said that the absolute increase in risk is quite small, since the risk of heart attack for most people is small to begin with.

Still, she said, “I want people to have a conversation with their doctor. People are often not aware of their own baseline cardiovascular risk. You may want to stay with Nsaids, or you may want to consider other treatments.”

In any case, she added, “Read the label and use the lowest possible effective dose.”