CNN reported January 11 that a new meta-analysis of 31 existing studies has uncovered risk of cardiovascular trouble in patients who take NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
There are a few caveats here. The meds referred to in the study were described as prescription strength, although it was noted that the concern extended to OTC versions. The study, it was reported, failed to take into account potential bleeding problems that can accompany NSAID usage. There was also no consideration given to those patients who already were plagued with cardiovascular issues unrelated to NSAID use, according to Jeffrey Berger, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. These were identified as important limitations.
The meta analysis, published in the British Medical Journal, described the potential cardiovascular risks as "significant."
A total of 116,000 patients were studied overall, throughout various studies. In analyzing the data, the meta-analysis employed more sophisticated techniques to arrive at the more recent study findings.
Among those findings, it was determined that ibuprofen (branded as Advil and sold under other names as well) was the worst culprit in terms of the potential for stroke. Celebrex was found to increase cardiovascular risk in tandem with increased dosage.
Of other drugs that raised concern in the study, one drug is not sold in the US while another—Vioxx—was pulled from the US market several years ago.
The safest of all the NSAID drugs was found to be naproxen, which is the key ingredient in Aleve and other painkillers. While there remained cardiovascular risk for even those, the study concluded that the risk was lower.
It was also felt that concerns for prescription-strength drugs would extrapolate across OTC drugs as well.