New research exploring heart disease link with painkillers for arthritis

5 October 2016        

Pills in a hand

A new study published in the European Heart Journal found that the risk of developing heart and circulatory disease from commonly prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine for arthritis patients is relatively low.

The study looked to see if there was an increased heart disease risk if patients switch from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to a new medication called celecoxib.

The team of researchers led by the University of Dundee looked at over 7,000 patients over the age 60, without any evidence of pre-existing cardiovascular disease.  Half of patients switched their medication to celecoxib and the other half continued with their usual NSAIDs treatment.

Findings

They found that in this selected group of patients, there was no difference in risk of having a heart attack or stroke in those switched from their old medication to the newer version.   

What we think of the research

Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said:

“In recent years there has been concern about the association between commonly prescribed painkillers, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, with an increased risk of developing heart disease.  These drugs are used to help treat conditions such as arthritis.  

“This study compared two different kinds of these non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and found that in patients over the age of 60 with no evidence of pre-existing heart and circulatory disease there was no difference in the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, when switching from older to the newer type of medication.   

“This is reassuring for patients, however all prescriptions must be assessed on an individual basis and discussed with your GP to find the treatment that is right for you.  This is particularly important for people with more than one condition, such as arthritis and heart disease, so the benefits and risks of any one treatment can be weighed up.”

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