Taking a common kind of painkiller is linked to an increased risk of heart failure, a study suggests.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen and diclofenac, are commonly used to treat pain and inflammation.
The British Medical Journal study looked at 10 million people, aged 77 on average, who took the drugs.
UK experts said the study was a reminder to consider the risks as well as the benefits of medication.
The study analysed data for the 10 million users – who were from the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany – and compared them with people who did not take the drugs.
The researchers, from University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, found taking NSAIDs increased the risk of being taken to hospital with heart failure by 19%.
Since most people in the study were older – and those on NSAIDs were, in general, in poorer health – UK experts say the findings have very little relevance for most under-65s but may be a concern for elderly patients.
Use with caution
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said patients should be on the lowest dose possible of NSAIDs for the shortest possible time.
Prof Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: “This large observational study reinforces previous research showing that some NSAIDs, a group of drugs commonly taken by patients with joint problems, increase the risk of developing heart failure.
“It has been known for some years now that such drugs need to be used with caution in patients with, or at high risk of, heart disease.
“This applies mostly to those who take them on a daily basis rather than only occasionally.
“Since heart and joint problems often coexist, particularly in the elderly, this study serves as a reminder to doctors to consider carefully how they prescribe NSAIDs, and to patients that they should only take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.
“They should discuss their treatment with their GP if they have any concerns.”
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The consequence is that it is of very little relevance to most people below age 65 taking painkillers, but in the very elderly, say, above 80, that the effects are of more relevance.”