London: A study has concluded that commonly used painkillers to treat inflammation are more likely to develop an increased risk of irregular heart rhythm (known as atrial fibrillation or flutter) – a condition which causes heart attacks and strokes.
The drugs include non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) as well as new generation anti-inflammatory drugs, known as selective COX-2 inhibitors.
These drugs have already been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, but no study has examined whether they increase the risk of atrial fibrillation – a condition that is associated with an increased long-term risk of stroke, heart failure, and death.
So a team of researchers, led by Professor Henrik Toft Sorensen at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, used the Danish National Registry of Patients to identify 32,602 patients with a first diagnosis of atrial fibrillation or flutter between 1999 and 2008. Each case was compared with 10 age and sex-matched control patients randomly selected from the Danish population.
The researchers found that use of NSAIDs or COX-2 inhibitors was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter.
Compared with non-users, the association was strongest for new users, with around 40 pc increased risk for non-selective NSAIDS and around 70 pc increased risk for COX-2 inhibitors.
The risk appeared highest in older people, and patients with chronic kidney disease or rheumatoid arthritis were at particular risk when starting treatment with COX-2 inhibitors.
The authors concluded: "Our study thus adds evidence that atrial fibrillation or flutter need to be added to the cardiovascular risks under consideration when prescribing NSAIDs."