Take a look in pretty much any medicine cabinet and the likelihood is that you’ll spot a bottle of ibuprofen lurking around somewhere in there. As one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen is primarily used for treating aches, pains and inflammation, providing relief from migraines, menstrual pain and more in one hour or less. But could ibuprofen be providing temporary relief at the risk of something far more dangerous?
Common side effects of the drug include heartburn or a rash, and can be particularly harmful during the final 10 weeks of pregnancy, but a study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that taking ibuprofen could have effects that are a great deal more serious. After conducting research on hundreds of thousands of people, the BMJ have concluded that any period of dosage of ibuprofen could increase your risk of a heart attack by as much as 50 percent.
As an effective pain relief that can be bought over the counter, ibuprofen is one of the most popular drugs sold in the United States. Used sporadically, ibuprofen is usually harmless, but taken for any length of time, the drug (and other NSAIDs like it) could prove deadly.
The BMJ study gathered data from more than 446,000 people who had taken NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, and over 61,000 of those people ended up suffering from a heart attack. Michèle Bally, from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada, was the lead researcher in this study, which said that taking the drug for as little as a week could increase the risk of heart problems.
“Taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month, or more than a month was associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction [a heart attack]. Given that the onset of risk of acute myocardial infarction occurred in the first week and appeared greatest in the first month of treatment with higher doses, prescribers should consider weighing the risks and benefits of NSAIDs before instituting treatment, particularly for higher doses.”
According to the study, the highest risk of heart attack occurred after one month of NSAID use, and overall, taking ibuprofen increases the risk of a heart attack by between 20 and 50 percent. Bally also stated that ibuprofen was not the only offender, saying that “all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack”, and said that doctors and patients should work together to understand the pros and cons before relying unnecessarily on ibuprofen and other NSAIDs.
“People minimize the risks because drugs are over the counter and they don’t read labels. Why not consider all treatment options? … Every therapeutic decision is a balance of benefits and risk.”
Previous studies have indicated that NSAIDs correlated with heart attacks, and this latest study by the BMJ only consolidates that idea. In the past, a study on pregnant women found that taking ibuprofen could increase the risk of miscarriage 2.4 times, but a similar Israeli research project found no such link between NSAIDs and miscarriage.