Heart attack risk of shelved arthritis drugs could be identified, say researchers

9 December 2014        

Chest pain

A study that we helped to fund has shown the way in which a type of arthritis drug can increase heart attack risk.

This finding, led by Imperial College London researchers, could lead to a test to identify at-risk patients who should avoid the drug and could even lead to methods to reduce those patients’ risk.

The drugs are called COX-2 inhibitors, which are a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). COX-2 inhibitors include Vioxx, which was withdrawn because of the increased risk of heart attack.

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said:

More research is planned to see if a simple blood test can identify patients on NSAIDs who are at risk of a heart attack

Professor Peter Weissberg
BHF Medical Director


“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are effective pain killers for arthritis but some of them, particularly the COX-2 inhibitors, are no longer prescribed because they increase the risk of a heart attack.

“This research identifies how NSAIDs may exert their harmful effect and a possible way of preventing it.

“More research is planned to see if a simple blood test can identify patients on NSAIDs who are at risk of a heart attack and whether a dietary supplement can reduce that risk. Success would pave the way for more effective and safer pain relief for thousands of arthritis sufferers.”

The study, in mice and human volunteers, was led by Professor Jane Mitchell and Dr James Leiper. The work was also funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The research was published in the scientific journal Circulation.

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