New Study Highlights Dangers of Over the Counter Pain Medications

ABC News reported on an April 17, 2005 Associated Press story stating that over the counter pain medications increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. According to a study performed in Norway, smokers who took such drugs for at least six months had twice the risk of dying of a heart attack, stroke or other heart-related problem.

Previously, the main concern was for so-called cox-2 drugs Bextra, Vioxx and Celebrex. This study suggests that there are also problems associated with the family of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which include naproxen, ibuprofen and virtually all other over-the-counter pain relievers except Aspirin and Tylenol.

Dr. Andrew Dannenberg, a Cornell University scientist who helped do the Norway study noted, “To the best of our knowledge, these are the first data to support putting a box warning on NSAIDs, not just cox-2s.” The original purpose of the study was to determine if these pain relievers could prevent oral cancer. However, the data revealed that the NSAID users were dying at twice the rate of the others from heart-related problems. The risk was highest among ibuprofen users, who were nearly three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than non-NSAID users.

Concerns over the prescription drugs Vioxx and Bextra have already caused then to be pulled from the market. Now this study has raised disturbing questions about the heart safety and long-term use of the very common over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve.