A new study adds to evidence that high doses of common painkillers such as ibuprofen increase the risk of heart attack. Researchers report in the British Medical Journal that patients prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were at greater risk for heart trouble in the first 30 days, reports the BBC. The greater risk applied to ibuprofen as well as the NSAIDs naproxen, diclofenac, and celecox. The first two are available over the counter in the US, while the latter two require prescriptions, notes CBS News. Researchers say those taking high doses, such as 1,200mg a day of ibuprofen, saw the greatest risk. The bright side is that the absolute risk of a heart attack among people taking NSAIDS is low, somewhere around 1%, reports the Independent. But because the drugs are so common, even a slight risk is meaningful from a public health perspective, says the lead researcher.
"If an individual’s risk of heart attack is 1% and it increases to 1.25%, they don’t care," says Michele Bally of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. "But at a population level, it’s important, and if people want to contribute to public health, they might wish to make more informed choices." Her team says the takeaway from the study is that doctors need to carefully weigh each patient's risks before writing these prescriptions. And another doctor says people picking them up over the counter shouldn't be lulled into thinking that makes them safe. "If someone has to use an NSAID for pain relief, the best advice is to use the lowest possible dose and for shortest amount of time possible," says Deepak Bhatt of Brigham and Women's Hospital. (Meanwhile, another study suggests that dairy does not increase the risk of heart trouble.)