Popular painkillers hike fatal cardiac arrest risk by 50pc
One of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers can heighten the chances of suffering a potentially fatal cardiac arrest, a study has shown.
Researchers in Denmark found that taking ibuprofen was associated with a 31pc 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.
They included diclofenac, which raised the risk by 50pc.
Heart expert Professor Gunnar Gislason, who led the study, called for tighter controls on NSAIDs.
"Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe," he 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.
"I don't think these drugs should be sold in supermarkets or petrol stations where there is no professional advice on how to use them.
"Over-the-counter NSAIDs should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities and in low doses."
The Danish investigators studied data on all patients who had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the country between 2001 and 2010.
In the 10-year period, 28,947 patients had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Of these, 3,376 had been treated with an NSAID up to a month beforehand.
Prof Gislason, from Copenhagen University Hospital, warned people not to take more than 1,200mg of ibuprofen in one day.
"Diclofenac is the riskiest NSAID and should be avoided by patients with cardiovascular disease and the general population. Safer drugs are available that have similar painkilling effects so there is no reason to use diclofenac," he said.