Just because you don’t need a prescription doesn’t mean it’s
NSAIDs relieve pain by blocking pro-inflammatory enzymes known as COX-1 and COX-2.
While this suppresses the body’s natural inflammatory response, thereby relieving symptoms like pain, it does nothing to eliminate the cause of that pain. And since these drugs interfere with
platelet aggregation, they increase the risk of blood clots, raise blood pressure, constrict arteries and increase fluid retention. It is this toxic combination of symptoms that can trigger cardiac
arrest in those who use these drugs, even if they have only used them for a short time. (Related: Painkillers commonly prescribed for arthritis are more dangerous than previously believed, especially for heart
A press release by the European Society of Cardiology explains how the researchers arrived at their
All patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac
arrest in Denmark between 2001 and 2010 were identified from the nationwide Danish Cardiac Arrest Registry. Data was collected on all redeemed prescriptions for NSAIDs from Danish pharmacies since
1995. These included the non-selective NSAIDs (diclofenac, naproxen, ibuprofen), and COX-2 selective inhibitors (rofecoxib, celecoxib).
A case-time-control design was used to examine the
association between NSAID use and cardiac arrest. …
A total of 28 947 patients had an out-of-hospital
cardiac arrest in Denmark during the ten year period. Of these, 3 376 were treated with an NSAID up to 30 days before the event. Ibuprofen and diclofenac were the most commonly used NSAIDs, making up
51% and 22% of total NSAID use, respectively.
Use of any NSAID was associated with a 31%
increased risk of cardiac arrest. Diclofenac and ibuprofen were associated with a 50% and 31% increased risk, respectively. Naproxen, celecoxib and rofecoxib were not associated with the occurrence
of cardiac arrest, probably due to a low number of events.
Professor Gunnar H. Gislason, professor of cardiology at Copenhagen University Hospital, and the study’s lead author, warned that this study is a stark reminder that these drugs are “not harmless,” and that allowing them to be
sold over-the-counter, without a prescription, sends the wrong safety message to consumers. He added that NSAIDs should be avoided by patients who have cardiovascular disease or other risk factors,
and “should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities, and in low doses.”
Professor Gislason advises not exceeding 1,200mg of ibuprofen on any given day, and
that the safest drug in this class is probably Naproxen.
This is by no means the first study to point out the dangers of NSAIDs. Earlier
studies have confirmed additional risks, including an increased risk of intestinal bleeding. It does remind us, however, just how much better it is to avoid chemical drugs and
try to treat pain and inflammation with natural alternatives instead.
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