Skip to content

    Heart Health Center

    Font Size

    Common Painkillers May Be Risky After Heart Attack

    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Sept. 10, 2012 -- Heart attack survivors who take commonly used pain relievers have a higher risk of dying or having another heart attack, new research shows.

    The Danish study adds to the evidence linking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) to poorer outcomes in heart patients.

    Using the painkillers after a first heart attack was linked to a higher risk for a second heart attack or death from any cause. And the risk persisted over at least five years.

    Pain Relief Tricky After Heart Attack

    Like previous studies, the new research does not prove that NSAIDs are directly responsible for these events.

    But the evidence as a whole strongly suggests that the pain relievers should be used cautiously, if at all, by heart attack survivors, says Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, MD, who led the Danish study.

    “Our results indicate that use of NSAIDs is associated with persistently increased coronary risk, regardless of the time elapsed after a [heart attack],” she says. “Thus, long-term caution is advised in all patients.”

    The study included data on nearly 100,000 survivors of first heart attacks, taken from Danish hospital and pharmacy registries.

    Just under half of the people (44%) filled at least one prescription for an NSAID at some point after their heart attack.

    Compared to those who presumably did not take NSAIDs, people who did had a 59% increased risk of death from any cause within one year of having the heart attack and a 63% increased risk over five years.

    The risk of having another heart attack or dying from heart disease was 30% higher after one year in NSAID users and 41% after five years.

    Even Years Later, NSAIDs May Cause Harm

    American Heart Association (AHA) immediate past president Gordon Tomaselli, MD, says the study is one of the first to suggest that NSAID use may be risky for many years after a first heart attack.

    Tomaselli directs the division of cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

    In 2007, the AHA issued a statement on NSAID use in heart patients, urging doctors to carefully weigh the risks vs. benefits before recommending the drugs or prescribing them.

    Tomaselli says this means carefully assessing a person’s risk, which is influenced by conditions like heart failure or diabetes.

    Today on WebMD

    hdl letters stacked up
    How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol.
    Learn the causes.
    Compressed heart
    5 habits to change.
    heart rate
    What’s normal? What’s not?
    Lower Cholesterol 02
    Heart Foods Slideshow
    Compressed heart
    doctor looking at xrays
    Heart Disease And Ed
    Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow
    lowering blood pressure
    Wide Awake For Heart Surgery