January 27, 2017
July 15, 2015
Contrary to past findings, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the controversial prescription painkiller Celebrex poses no greater risk for heart attack and stroke than ibuprofen or naproxen--two popular over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic say that while this provides reassurance for patients taking Celebrex, it is important to understand the risks associated with all NSAIDs and take the lowest dose you can for the shortest period of time possible.
So, if you’re one of the 100 million Americans who regularly takes NSAIDs, including Celebrex, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) to relieve pain, it is important to consider Food and Drug Administration warnings, which were just strengthened last year.
Amid growing evidence that NSAID use can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, even after a short period of time, the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to strengthen warning labels on both prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs. The tougher warnings do not apply to aspirin, an NSAID that has actually been shown to lower heart risks in some patients.
What Changed with the New Warnings?
For 15 years, we’ve known about the risks associated with these popular drugs, often used to treat fever and pain from arthritis, menstrual cramps, headaches, and muscle injuries.
Past drug packaging stated that "NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious heart thrombotic [clot] events, myocardial infarction [heart attack] and stroke, which can be fatal. Patients with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease may be at greater risk."
The new warnings remove the word “may,” and state the risks start almost immediately and aren’t limited to people with heart disease: "NSAIDs cause an increased risk of serious heart thrombotic events, including myocardial infarction and stroke, which can be fatal. This risk may occur early in treatment and may increase with duration of use."
Weighing the Risks and Benefits
NSAIDs are powerful tools in fighting pain and benefit many people. However, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks, and find out whether other treatment options might be appropriate for you. In general:
- Take NSAIDs according to package directions or as prescribed by your doctor, only when needed. As with most medications, take the smallest dose as is appropriate, only as long as you need it.
- If you’re taking an NSAID, be careful about combining it with other products like a multi-symptom cold product that may also contain an NSAID.
- If you are taking NSAIDs, be especially diligent about recognizing signs of heart attack and stroke. Get medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms of heart attack: chest pain or shortness of breath; or symptoms of stroke: weakness in one side of the body or slurred speech.