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Analysis shows heart, stroke risk of pain drugs

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 00:00

London: Common painkillers such as ibuprofen and diclofenac as well as branded pain drugs from Pfizer Inc, Merck & Co Inc and Novartis AG can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, a review found on Wednesday.

Scientists from Bern University in Switzerland analyzed data from 31 trials involving more than 116,000 patients taking either naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, Pfizer`s Celebrex, or celecoxib, Merck`s Arcoxia, or etoricoxib, Merck`s Vioxx, or rofecoxib, Novartis` Prexige, or lumiracoxib, or a placebo, to try to give an estimate of the heart risks of such medicines.

The drugs studied included traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) as well as new generation anti-inflammatory medicines known as COX-2 inhibitors.

While the absolute risk of cardiovascular problems among people taking painkillers was low, the researchers found that relative to placebo the drugs did carry "important risks".

Reporting their findings in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Wednesday, the scientists said that compared with a placebo or dummy pill, rofecoxib and lumiracoxib were associated with twice the risk of heart attack, while ibuprofen was associated with more than three times the risk of stroke.

Merck`s Arcoxia and the generic drug diclofenac were linked with around four times the risk of cardiovascular death.

"Although uncertainty remains, little evidence exists to suggest that any of the investigated drugs are safe in cardiovascular terms," said Peter Juni of Bern University`s Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, who led the study.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 00:00
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