TUESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Common painkillers taken to treat inflammation, such as Celebrex and Advil, can raise the risk of heart attack, stroke or death, a review of existing research suggests.
Swiss researchers analyzed the results of 31 trials involving seven non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as these medications are called, and concluded that cardiovascular risk needs to be considered before prescribing any of them.
"NSAIDs are widely used worldwide for treating pain and inflammation," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, American Heart Association spokesman and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"A number of studies have shown that many of these agents are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events, particularly when used at higher doses and for longer periods of time, but uncertainty remains as to the magnitude of the risk and how the cardiovascular risk may vary among different NSAIDs," said Fonarow, who was not involved in the study.
All the NSAIDs studied increased the risk of cardiovascular events, but the magnitude of risk is small in absolute terms -- approximately one cardiovascular event per 100 patient-years of follow-up, Fonarow noted.
"In many patients the benefits provided by these agents may outweigh the risk, and other steps can be taken to reduce the patient's cardiovascular risk," he said.
The report is published in the Jan. 11 online edition of the BMJ.
In 2004, the drug Vioxx (rofecoxib), which belonged to a class of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors, was pulled from the market because of its link to an increased risk of heart attack.
To explore the connection between NSAIDs and heart problems, a team led by Dr. Peter Juni, from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern, reviewed 31 trials that included 116,429 patients.
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