Painkillers risky for heart attack patients

Updated: May 15, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

London: A new study has warned that even short-term use of some painkillers like ibuprofen could be dangerous for people who`ve had a heart attack.

Researchers analysed the duration of prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) treatment and cardiovascular risk in a nationwide Danish cohort of patients with prior heart attack.

They found the use of NSAIDs was associated with a 45 per cent increased risk of death or recurrent heart attack within as little as one week of treatment, and a 55 per cent increased risk if treatment extended to three months.

In the current study, researchers undertook the first time-to-event analysis of a nationwide group and investigated if the duration of prescription NSAID treatment influenced the cardiovascular risk among heart patients. Among 83,697 heart attack survivors (average age 68; 63 perc ent men), 42.3 per cent had a least one prescription for an NSAID.

The most common NSAIDs prescribed were ibuprofen (23 per cent) and diclofenac (13.4 per cent). Selective COX-2 inhibitors — rofecoxib (4.7 per cent) and celecoxib (4.8 per cent) — were also used.

The non-selective NSAID diclofenac was associated with early onset risk similar to the selective COX-2 inhibitor rofecoxib.

All NSAIDs were associated with an increased risk of death or recurrent heart attack, with diclofenac having the highest risk (nearly three times).

"Overall, NSAID treatment was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death," said Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, lead author of the study and research fellow at Copenhagen University in Hellerup, Denmark.

"Our results indicate that there is no apparent safe therapeutic window for NSAIDs in patients with prior heart attack, she added.

The research has been published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.