Study Ranks Generic Painkillers by Risk of Heart Problems, Death

European researchers testing a number of popular generic painkillers, found that all of them carried some risk of cardiovascular problems, but determined that generic Aleve was the safest for the human heart, and generic Advil and Motrin carried the most risk. 

The study was published in the British Medical Journal, focusing on a class of over-the-counter medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The researchers looked at the cardiovascular risk of seven different generic NSAIDs, including generic Aleve (naproxen), Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen), Voltaren and Cataflam (diclofenac), Celebrex (celecoxib), Arcoxia (etoricoxib), Vioxx (rofecoxib) and Prexige (lumiracoxib).

Researchers found that all of the drugs increased the risk of stroke, and all except generic Aleve carried a risk of cardiovascular death. The highest risk of stroke came from ibuprofen, which carried a more than 230% increased risk of stroke with long-term use. Aleve carried the lowest danger, increasing the risk of stroke by only 76%.

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When it came to the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems, generic Voltaren and Cataflam carried three times the risk when compared to a placebo. Aleve was the only drug that carried no increased risk at all.

The findings seem to confirm an earlier study by Danish researchers published in June, which found that the risk of death was highest with Voltaren and Cataflam and determined that Aleve actually lowered the risk of death.

Two of the drugs have already been removed from the market due to safety issues. Prexige was never sold in the U.S. and has been withdrawn from most industrialized countries due to the risk of liver failure. Vioxx was a prescription drug used for treatment of chronic pain from arthritis and other conditions which cause acute pain. Before it was recalled on September 30, 2004 over concerns that it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, over 80 million people worldwide took the drug.

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.


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