Painkillers that can be bought over-the-counter for use in treating inflammation, such as ibuprofen, may treble the risk of heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable people, researchers have warned.
People who take the drugs occasionally for a headache or period pains are unlikely to be affected, but older people with arthritis and heart problems who take the drugs regularly and in large doses are at a higher risk.
Researchers in Switzerland analysed 31 trials involving 116,429 patients to estimate the risks of all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs against placebos.
They found that ibuprofen increased the risk of stroke threefold, while diclofenac and etoricoxib had four times the risk of causing death from heart attack or stroke. Naproxen was the least harmful among the seven drugs analysed.
Professor Peter Juni, of the University of Bern, Switzerland, who led the study, said: “The problem is greater for elderly people who take the drugs regularly for chronic pain and have heart trouble. For these people the estimated annual rate of death from cardiovascular disease is already one to 2%. Taking these drugs will double or treble that risk.”