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Ibuprofen increases risk of cardiac arrest, shows new study

One of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers in the UK can heighten the chances of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac arrest, a study has shown.

One of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers in the UK can heighten the chances of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac arrest, a study has shown.


Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood. Picture: Science Photo Library

Researchers in Denmark found taking ibuprofen was associated with a 31% increased risk of the emergency condition, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood.

Other medicines from the same family of painkillers, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), posed a similar danger, according to the findings in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy.

Researchers included diclofenac, which raised the risk by 50%, and was available over the counter in the UK until 2015. Today, it can only be obtained on prescription.

Comparison 

The investigators studied data on all 28,947 patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the country between 2001-10.

Of these, 3,376 had been treated with an NSAID up to a month beforehand.

For every patient, use of NSAIDs during the month before a cardiac arrest was compared with use in the 30 days leading up to that point.

Comparing the two periods for each individual eliminated the chances of chronic conditions swaying the end result.

Used with caution 

Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte professor of cardiology Gunnar Gislason said: 'The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless.

'NSAIDs should be used with caution and for a valid indication.

'They should probably be avoided in patients with cardiovascular disease or many cardiovascular risk factors.'


Sondergaard KB, et al. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use is associated with increased risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: a nationwide case–time–control study. European Heart Journal - Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy. doi:10.1093/ehjcvp/pvw041

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