Pain killers Linked To Heart Attacks: Canadian Study Finds

TORONTO – A new suggests there may be a link between taking high doses of common anti-inflammatory painkillers – such as ibuprofen – and heart attacks.

An international team of researchers led by Michele Bally, who now works for the Montreal Hospital Research Centre, reviewed multiple health-care databases on heart attack risks associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.

The patient data came from Canada, the United Kingdom and Finland. Researchers analyzed the results of 446,763 people, of whom 61,460 had already had a heart attack. The study, published in The BMJ, focused on the use of ibuprofen, celecoxib, diclofenac, naproxen, and rofecoxib.

The paper, published in The BMJ, builds on a previous body of work linking these drugs to heart problems.

“We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack,” said Dr. Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, who led the research. “There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that’s not true.”

The researchers concluded that taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month or more than a month was associated with an increased risk of a heart attack.

They also found that the risk was greatest when the drugs were taken in higher doses during the first month of use. The increased risk was noted as early as within the first week of NSAID use.

Because this was an observational study, researchers note that a cause-and-effect relationship between painkillers and heart attacks could not be conclusively established. Still, they say that their study was the largest investigation of its kind and should serve as a caution to physicians and health care practitioners who prescribe NSAIDs.

Pain killers heart attacks
Pain killers heart attacks

Bally, the lead author of the study, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday that the study is “very important from a public health standpoint” because millions of people around the world take painkillers on a regular or semi-regular basis.

Bally said the study should not scare people away from reaching for an over-the-counter painkiller to help with pain and inflammation. But people should take the opportunity to talk to their doctor and pharmacist about their individual heart attack risks and what types of painkillers they should be using, she said.

“People have to know that their own personal risk, in general, is not high,” she said

Dr. Michael Farkouh, a cardiologist with the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto, said that ibuprofen, for example, can affect blood pressure and the function of blood vessels. Ibuprofen is sold in Canada under brand names Advil and Motrin.

But any risks associated with NSAIDs are dose-dependent, Farkouh told CTV News Channel.
“I think the take-home message here is to take the drug with the least frequency and with the lowest doses,” he said.

Previous studies have also suggested that NSAIDs could increase the risk of heart damage.

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Emmy Skylar

About the Author: Emmy Skylar

Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News.  She covers politics and the economy.


  1. There is not one medication of any kind for any purpose that does not have side effects. Just read the literature on line about any med you take. People have pain and need to take something. Yes, in some folks this may be true, but how many thousands of people have taken ibuprofen or other similar drugs for years and are ok. Driving a car down the street is very dangerous-are we all going to quit driving? Pain is real, people need to treat it somehow and not be miserable.

  2. After I had my pacemaker put in,in November of last year I asked if I was to take pain medication,after all they had sliced little piece of my chest up.??? The cardiologist said extra strength Tylenol 1500 mgs every 4-6 hrs .Well I was taking it .On Monday I had to go back for a wound check.He asked how my pain level was and I told him I had to quit taking the pain medication bcoz it was tearing my stomach up.I then asked if he could give me something.He said the girl who divulged narcotics wasn’t there that day.My cardiac surgeon said he could have wrote you a prescription bcoz he’s a doctor

  3. Back in the days this wasn’t an issue. However with so much greed $ pharmaceuticals are increasing and changing their ingredients. Now a days you honestly can’t trust any drugs, even caffeine. You can easily become addicted.

  4. I don’t take painkiller’s unless I have such a back ache I can’t stand it been having them more frequently lately just waiting for my fosamax & vitamin D2 to kick in just started them today.

  5. So they studied people with heart problems and found a good deal of them take motrin. That’s because most people take motrin. Doesn’t mean it caused it.

  6. Chelsea Manning to be Free! A miracle. CODEPINK has been standing with her since the moment of her arrest. It was Tighe who went naked at the State Department to get her moved out of solitary confinement and standing naked in her cell. Nancy Lopez Mancias has been her champion from the team. After being at her trial and seeing she was not going to receive justice, this is such a bright light.

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