Heart attack risks were higher for people on pain medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), and more.
The study’s most surprising findings was the increased risk of heart attack in the first 1-7 days of treatment. The risk was 24% increased for Celebrex, 48% increased for Motrin, and 53% increased for Aleve.
The greatest risk of heart attack was seen in patients on high doses of NSAIDs for up to 30 days, especially doses over 200-mg/day of Celebrex, 1200-mg/day of ibuprofen, or 750-mg/day of naproxen.
The researchers also observed a 58% increased risk of heart attack for patients on Vioxx for 1-7 days. Vioxx is a prescription-strength NSAID painkiller that was pulled off the market due to heart attacks.
According to Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation:
We already know that these drugs increase your risk of having a heart attack. However this large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs.”
Other studies show that NSAIDs can put people at risk of blood clots and elevate blood pressure, both risk-factors for having a heart attack.
Two years ago, the FDA added a Black Box warning label on all NSAID pain medications about the increased risk of stroke and heart attack for people with pre-existing heart disease.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal on May 9, 2017. The conclusions were based on medical records from 446,763 people in countries like Canada, Finland, and the U.K., of whom 61,460 had a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction).