The prevailing beliefs around pharmaceuticals in America are that prescription drugs are safe if used according to directions, over-the-counter drugs are even safer – that’s why they don’t require a prescription, and pharmaceutical complications are rare.
Drugs aren’t as safe as many assume. It seems using NSAIDs significantly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke, more so than previously believed, though doctors have known these drugs increase the risk of heart attack and stroke for 15 years, along with raising blood pressure and causing heart failure.
Dangers of Using NSAIDs
Apparently, they did not know the extent of the risk until Vioxx (rofecoxib), another NSAID, was pulled from the market and further studies on all NSAIDs were conducted. In the five years Vioxx was on the market, it caused as many as 140,000 heart attacks in the U.S. and 55,000 deaths.
After Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004, further studies into the safety of NSAIDs were conducted. In mid-2015, an expert panel reviewed the new information about these drugs and decided it was time for the FDA to modify the warnings associated with their use.
NSAIDs (pronounced en-saids) are Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Common, well-known NSAIDs include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®, Motrin IB®)
- Aspirin (Note: these particular warnings do not apply to aspirin.)
- Naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®)
- Nabumetone (Relafen®)
The new warnings from the FDA point out that the risk increases with increased dosage and the length of time NSAIDs are taken; however, heart attack and stroke risk increase with short-term use, possibly as short as a few weeks. The risk applies to all users but those with heart disease face a greater risk.
The FDA website says:
There is no period of use shown to be without risk,” says Judy Racoosin, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products.
People who have cardiovascular disease, particularly those who recently had a heart attack or cardiac bypass surgery, are at the greatest risk for cardiovascular adverse events associated with NSAIDs.
FDA is adding information in the drug label for people who already have had a heart attack. This vulnerable population is at an increased risk of having another heart attack or dying of heart attack-related causes if they’re treated with NSAIDs, according to studies.
But the risk is also present in people without cardiovascular disease. “Everyone may be at risk – even people without an underlying risk for cardiovascular disease,” Racoosin adds.
Can You Safely Use NSAIDs?
The FDA tells consumers to take the smallest dose possible for the least amount of time possible to increase safety. The reality is, these drugs are not safe, though many still believe them to be. In addition to the cardiovascular risks, there is a risk of “… inflammation, bleeding, ulceration, and perforation of the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine, which can be fatal.” [Motrin Insert] Renal damage is also a concern.
The best approach is to managing pain and inflammation is to treat the cause rather than the symptoms – to heal the body. For many, this entails a sweeping lifestyle change. But those who choose to heal their bodies through nutrition, detox, and exercise, reap the rewards. Check out What Causes Chronic Inflammation, and How To Stop It For Good.
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- FDA strengthens warning that NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk – Harvard Health Publications
- FDA Strengthens Warning of Heart Attack and Stroke Risk for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – FDA
- Motrin – Med Library