A British Medical Journal (BMJ) review of studies including more than 100,000 patients showed that arthritis medications called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) dramatically increased heart attack death risk. Now another study, called the INVEST study, with over 22,000 patients has confirmed this problem.
The good news? Natural herbal remedies can be far more effective than the medications — without the safety risks and at lower cost.
Many adults suffer from arthritis and other aches and pains. Arthritis NSAID medications such as ibuprofen are in very common use. The use of these arthritis medications increased after research showed that Vioxx increased heart attack risk (it was pulled from the market because of this). Unfortunately, this was like "jumping from the frying pan into the fire."
Research has also shown that arthritis NSAID medications cause over 16,500 U.S. deaths a year from bleeding ulcers, added to a doubling of heart attacks/vascular disease (the number one killer in the United States).
Now the INVEST study has shown that in adults who already have high blood pressure and heart disease, being on arthritis NSAID medications more than doubled their risk of heart attack.
Here are some common medication questions:
Should I stop the aspirin I'm taking for heart disease?
Absolutely not. For those with known heart disease, taking one aspirin a day is a very good idea and does not carry the same risks.
I've been on arthritis medicine for decades. Is the risk reversible?
Fortunately, although this needs to be studied further, the research we have suggests that the answer is yes; The risk can be reversed as the person comes off the medications. I say this because this same risk can occur with very short term use of ibuprofen immediately after a heart attack (within 37 days). This suggests that the heart attack risk is not increased by causing increased blockages in the arteries, but rather by changes in blood clotting and perhaps blood vessel spasm. These types of changes go away soon after the medication is stopped. So that is encouraging.
Should I stop the arthritis medication and just be in pain?
No, it is not healthy to be in pain.
Do not change any medications without your physician's approval. What you can do in the interim is to take simple measures to decrease your arthritis pain. That way, during your next visit, you can let your doctor know that the arthritis pain is much less and ask if you can stop the medications, using them only if needed. Your doctor will very likely say of course. If not, let them know your concern based on the studies we noted above, so they can explain to you why you still need the medication.
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