Advil, Motrin and Other NSAID Heart Risks Affect Healthy People Too: Study

For years, scientists have known that certain pain relievers, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) raise the risk of heart-related death in people who already had heart problems. But according to the findings of a new study, that risk also may extend to healthy people. 

Danish researchers have a published a new study on heart risks with NSAIDs in the medical journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, that indicates the class of drugs, which include Motrin and Advil, increase the risk of cardiovascular problems in healthy users. The study indicates that the risk appears to vary widely from brand to brand, with Vioxx, Voltaren and Cataflam as the worst offenders, and the pain reliever Aleve actually appearing to lessen the risk of death.

Researchers looked at the medical records of one million Danes who used NSAIDs between 1997 and 2005. They found that users of diclofenac, sold under the brand names of Voltaren and Cataflam, faced a 91% increased risk of death from all cardiovascular diseases. They also found that Vioxx increased the risk by 66%. Even the side effects of ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil and Motrin, was associated with a 29% increased risk of stroke.

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Voltaren and Cataflam were also associated with double the risk of heart attack, while Vioxx was linked to triple the increased risk.

Lawsuits over Vioxx were filed by tens of thousands of people following the September 2004 recall of the drug amid reports that it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The prescription medication, which was approved for treatment of chronic pain from arthritis and other conditions that cause acute pain, was used by more than 80 million people worldwide. Merck & Co., the manufacturer of Vioxx, reached a $4.85 billion settlement with about 50,000 plaintiffs to resolve the Vioxx litigation in 2008.

One NSAID which appeared to have beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk, however, was Aleve (naproxen), which appeared to lower the risk of death compared to those not taking any NSAIDs.

“Individual NSAIDs have different degrees of cardiovascular safety, which must be considered when choosing appropriate treatment,” researchers concluded. “In particular, rofecoxib and diiclofenac were associated with increased cardiovascular mortality and morbidity and should be used with caution in most individuals, whereas our results suggest that naproxen has a safer cardiovascular risk-profile.”


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