Regular use of commonly prescribed painkillers can increase the risk of a heart attack as early as in the first week of use and especially within the first month of taking high doses.
The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, involves drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS for short. They include ibuprofen, sold under brand names like Advil or Motrin; naproxen, like Aleve; as well as prescription arthritis drugs known as COX-2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex.
The study also looked at Vioxx, a prescription drug pulled from the market in 2004 after it was shown to raise the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Michèle Bally of McGill University and colleagues pooled all the studies they could find on NSAIDs and heart attacks. They settled on data covering 446,000 people using NSAIDs, including 385,000 who did not have heart attacks, known medically as myocardial infarctions.
“By studying 61,460 myocardial infarction events in real-world use of NSAIDs, we found that current use of a NSAID is associated with a significantly increased risk of acute myocardial infarction,” they wrote in their report, published in the British Medical Journal.
The risk of a heart attack began within a week of taking the drugs, but did not grow with longer use the study found. However, the study doesn’t show how much someone’s risk of a heart attack is increased.
Tylenol, known generically as acetaminophen, is not an NSAID and the American Heart Association advises people to try acetaminophen first.