Pain Relievers with Ibuprofen Linked to Increased Heart Attack Risk
By Nathan D. Williams, staff writer.
Pain relievers containing ibuprofen have been popular options since 1969 for treating the occasional headache, muscle pain or arthritis. Known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, many of these medications are sold over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription. Common brand names include Motrin, Aleve and Advil.
One reason these medications are so popular is that they work, especially for pain caused by inflammation.
Although experts have known about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke from taking NSAIDs for more than 15 years, the FDA recently ordered manufacturers to include even more stringent warnings about this risk on certain medications.
According to a Danish study from 2010, high doses of ibuprofen (meaning more than 1,200 milligrams daily or more than two 200 milligram doses three times a day) increased the risk of heart attack.
These findings corroborate warnings issued by an American Heart Association panel in 2007 explaining how using NSAIDs for treating chronic pain increases the risk of heart attack or stroke in a patient. Occasional use will likely not cause cardiovascular problems, but according to an analysis of more than 350,000 patients, taking high doses on a regular basis increases this risk by over 1/3.
Stevens Johnson Syndrome
To date, there really hasn’t been any litigation involving ibuprofen and heart attacks. However, there have been payouts for its link to Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a condition characterized by painful blistering of the skin and mucous membranes. As the condition progresses, skin can literally “slough” off the patient’s body. A jury is Massachusetts for example ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $63 million to a teenage girl and her parents for this rare side effect from taking Motrin, which contains ibuprofen.
In light of these new warnings, Dr. Gregory Curfman, Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publications, recommends anyone with heart disease or a family history of cardiovascular problems avoid NSAIDs. He also recommends only taking the minimum dose and never take more than one NSAID at a time.
If you start experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath while taking ibuprofen or another NSAID, seek medical attention immediately.