July 10, 2015

Ibuprofen (and Other NSAIDS) Increases Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

It seems that the longer we study a particular medication on larger numbers of people, the more risks we find associated with taking it. The FDA on 7/9/15 reported that NSAID medications like ibuprofen (but NOT aspirin) significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

This risk of heart attack and stroke with NSAIDs, either of which can lead to death, was first published in 2005. However, this warning will now be strengthened with the following statements:
  • The risk of heart attack or stroke can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID. The risk may increase with longer use of the NSAID.
  • The risk appears greater at higher doses.
  • It was previously thought that all NSAIDs may have a similar risk. Newer information makes it less clear that the risk for heart attack or stroke is similar for all NSAIDs; however, this newer information is not sufficient for us to determine that the risk of any particular NSAID is definitely higher or lower than that of any other particular NSAID.
  • NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke in patients with or without heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. A large number of studies support this finding, with varying estimates of how much the risk is increased, depending on the drugs and the doses studied.
  • In general, patients with heart disease or risk factors for it have a greater likelihood of heart attack or stroke following NSAID use than patients without these risk factors because they have a higher risk at baseline.
  • Patients treated with NSAIDs following a first heart attack were more likely to die in the first year after the heart attack compared to patients who were not treated with NSAIDs after their first heart attack.
  • There is an increased risk of heart failure with NSAID use.
What is the evidence to support such statements? It mainly comes out of 2 references listed below.

The lancet study in particular found the following statistics:

Major vascular events, mainly cardiac, increased by 30% in those who took NSAIDs. Heart failure risk was roughly doubled by all NSAIDs. All NSAID regimens increased upper gastrointestinal complications.

FDA Briefing Information for the February 10-11, 2014 Joint Meeting of the Arthritis Advisory Committee and Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee. [link]

Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials. Lancet 2013;382:769-79.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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