May 30, 2013
Common painkillers linked to increased risk of heart
Taking high doses of some widely used painkillers such as
diclofenac and ibuprofen for a prolonged period increases the risk
of heart attack by a small, but significant amount according to new
research we've part-funded with the UK Medical Research
In England in 2010, there were 17 million prescriptions for
NSAIDs, with approximately one third of them diclofenac, one third
ibuprofen, and one sixth naproxen.
This research, led by Professor Colin Baigent and his team at
the Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit
(CTSU) at the University of Oxford, found that high doses of some
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) mainly diclofenac
and ibuprofen increased the risk of a major vascular event
(heart attack, stroke or dying from cardiovascular disease) by around one third.
Those who need regularly prescribed painkillers should speak to their doctor about which drug is the most suitable choice for them
However, high doses
of naproxen did not appear to increase the risk of heart attacks.
The researchers say this may be because naproxen also has
protective effects that balance out any extra risk of heart
Our Research Advisor Dr Shannon Amoils said: said: “This study
supports previous findings showing that taking high doses of some
NSAIDs such as diclofenac and ibuprofen for a prolonged period
leads to a small increase in the risk of heart attack and
“Based on this research, we would reiterate the advice that
people should take the lowest effective dose of these drugs for the
shortest time necessary to control symptoms. Although people who
take painkillers infrequently needn’t be overly concerned, those
who need regularly prescribed painkillers should speak to their
doctor about which drug is the most suitable choice for them.”
The research was published today in the Lancet Online.