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Are NSAIDs Linked to the Ultimate Side Effect, Cardiac Arrest?

A Danish study shows that people taking an NSAID such as diclofenac or ibuprofen are at a greater risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Most people think of ibuprofen as a safe and handy pain reliever. Here in the US, it is sold without prescription in convenience stores and supermarkets as well as pharmacies. Some side effects, such as digestive tract irritation, have been recognized, although most people imagine this is more of a problem with prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). But what about cardiac arrest?

NSAIDs Are Not Harmless:

A new study from Denmark suggests that we shouldn’t be taking ibuprofen or any other NSAIDs for granted. The researchers used extensive medical and prescription records to track cardiac arrest among 28,947 Danish adults.

Those who were taking a prescription NSAID like ibuprofen or diclofenac were significantly more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest, the ultimate side effect. The relative risk increased by 50 percent for those taking diclofenac and by 31 percent for those on ibuprofen.

Prescription vs OTC NSAIDs:

This study looked only at prescription drug use, but over-the-counter drug sales of NSAIDs in Denmark are quite limited. Only ibuprofen is available, and even that is sold only in small packages of 30 pills each. One of the authors concluded that, “The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless.”

European Heart Journal-Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, April 2017

We have written more more extensively about this study. You can read that essay here. If you are wondering what you can do for bursitis, tendinitis or arthritis pain, you may be interested in our online resource, Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Solutions for headache pain can be found in our downloadable Guide to Headaches and Migraines.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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