Arthritis sufferers are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke if they take ibuprofen to dampen their pain, a study shows.
The common painkiller, available in corner shops, supermarkets and petrol stations, had a more profound effect on raising blood pressure than other similar medications.
The findings, made by Swiss researchers, adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests the cheap pills may have deadly consequences.
Scientists warned the results of the trial is worrying for the elderly, considering their higher rates of arthritis and hypertension.
Frank Ruschitzka, professor of cardiology and head of the department at University Heart Centre, Zurich, was behind the study of arthritis patients who often rely on ibuprofen.
A ‘clear demonstration’
He said: ‘The study clearly demonstrates that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly ibuprofen, may be not as safe as previously thought.
‘Patients receiving ibuprofen had a 61 per cent higher incidence of hypertension compared to those receiving celecoxib.’
The findings, based on 444 patients, were presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona.
How was the study carried out?
All participants involved in the latest trial of three NSAIDs had evidence of or were at an increased risk of heart disease.
Investigators discovered that celecoxib, often sold under the brand name Celebrex, decreased systolic blood pressure slightly over a four-month period.
However, both naproxen and ibuprofen were found to increase it, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke. Ibuprofen’s jump was deemed significant.
What could the results lead to?
Professor Ruschitzka said decreasing blood pressure by a small amount could lower both stroke and heart mortality by 10 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.
He hypothesised that such an action could avoid more than 70,000 deaths from stroke and 60,000 deaths from coronary heart disease each year.
Welcomed by experts
Arthritis Research UK said ibuprofen, one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, was taken by many sufferers.
A spokesman said: ‘Long-term use of NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, can increase the risk of problems with your heart or circulation.’
They added: ‘You shouldn’t take ibuprofen for long-term pain relief without seeing your doctor first.’
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at British Heart Foundation, welcomed the findings.
He said that patients and doctors must ‘weigh up the risk and benefits of NSAIDs’, especially if they have another long-term health condition.