Another study has emerged linking Ibuprofen, the popular over-the-counter pain-killer, to harmful and life-threatening health effects in those with cardiac conditions. This time it’s from researchers in Denmark, who found that taking the over-the-counter drug caused a 31% increased risk of cardiac arrest, among other things.
It wasn’t just Ibuprofen, but common painkillers that also fall under this category, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In fact, they found that other drugs in this category, like Tylenol, present an even higher risk.
The results were recently published in the European Heart Journal.
The study outlines how painkillers are considered completely harmless by the general public, and that few people think twice about hitting the drug store shelves the moment they experience slight pain or a headache. It’s time to start really paying attention to what we are doing here, especially given the fact that NSAIDs are among the most commonly used drugs in the world and easily available to anybody over the counter.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Gunnar H. Gislason, a professor of cardiology at Cophenhagen University Hospital Gentofte:
Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe.
The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless. Diclofenac and ibuprofen, both commonly used drugs, were associated with significantly increased risk of cardiac arrest. . . .
NSAIDs should be used with caution and for a valid indication. . . .
The current message being sent to the public about NSAIDs is wrong. If you can buy these drugs in a convenience store then you probably think “they must be safe for me.” Our study adds to the evidence about the adverse cardiovascular effects of NSAIDs and confirms that they should be taken seriously, and used only after consulting a healthcare professional.”
Professor Gislason does not think these drugs should be sold outside of pharmacies, where there would be no professional available to advise how best to take them and when to avoid them.
The study collected data from all patients who had a cardiac arrest incident outside of a hospital in Denmark between 2001 and 2010, identified from the nationwide Danish Cardiac Arrest Registry. Data was collected on all redeemed prescriptions for NSAIDs from pharmacies in Denmark since 1995.
The study, which examined a total of 28,947 patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Denmark, found that 3,376 of these patients were treated with an NSAID up to 30 days before their event. Ibuprofen was one of the most common used NSAIDs, making up 51% of total NSAID use.
“NSAIDs exert numerous effects on the cardiovascular system which could explain the link with cardiac arrest. These include influencing platelet aggregation and causing blood clots, causing the arteries to constrict, increasing fluid retention, and raising blood pressure.”
Not the Only Study
The amount of literature available on this subject can be overwhelming. It really makes you question what science is allowing companies to get these products onto the market without the proper safety measures in place.
Dr. Peter Gotzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration (the world’s most foremost body in assessing medical evidence), hopes to make clear this very problem. He is currently working to inform the world about the dangers associated with several pharmaceutical grade drugs. Based on his research, he estimates that 100,000 people in the United States alone die each year from the side-effects of correctly used prescription drugs, noting that “it’s remarkable that nobody raises an eyebrow when we kill so many of our own citizens with drugs.”
Gotzche’s two main areas of focus are painkillers, like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Celecoxib, and Diclofenac, and Vioxx, which was actually withdrawn after it was discovered that it caused more than 100,000 cases of serious heart disease in the United States during the five years that it was on the market.
According to Gotzche, these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the failure of the drug regulatory process to protect patients:
These terms for our drugs are invented by the drug industry. They had a huge financial interest in calling these things anti-inflammatory. It lured doctors into believing that these drugs somehow also had an effect on the disease process and reduced the joint damage.
According to Professor Gotzsche, the following list of things should be avoided.
- Antidepressants for all, as they very likely don’t even work for severe cases of depression
- All brain-active drugs in children
- Antipsychotics and other brain-active drugs for the elderly. Psychotropic drugs should be used as little as possible and mostly in very acute situations, as they are very harmful when used long term Anti-dementia drugs, as they very likely don’t work
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for arthritis, muscle pain and headaches, including over-the-counter, low-dose ibuprofen. These drugs should be used as little as possible.
- Mammography screening, as it doesn’t prolong life whereas it makes many healthy women ill through overdiagnosis and leads to the premature death for some because radiotherapy and chemotherapy increases mortality when used for harmless cancers detected at screening
- Drugs for urinary incontinence, as they very likely don’t work
Researchers from Ohio State University have also discovered that the commonly used pain reliever acetaminophen has a previously unknown side effect: It dampens emotions. In the study, participants who took acetaminophen reported feeling fewer strong emotions when they were shown very pleasant or very disturbing photos, compared to those who took placebos.
“Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever.”
Somethings to think about before you reach for that bottle…