Painkillers can be both a blessing and a curse. They’re effective at numbing everything from the inflammation that comes with infection to headaches and the achy joints of arthritis. But recent studies have exposed some serious side effects, including increased risk of heart events. The newest class of these drugs, COX-2 inhibitors, seemed especially risky for the heart, leading to the withdrawal from the market of one medication and a Food and Drug Administration warning on others.
In a new study published in the BMJ, researchers detail the risks associated with other prescription painkillers known as non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). COX-2 inhibitors belong to the NSAID class, but were supposed to be more targeted to reducing pain while avoiding some of the intestinal bleeding risk associated with NSAIDs—until their heart problems were revealed. So Giovanni Corrao, from the University of Milano-Bicocca, and his team studied data from 10 million users of NSAIDs from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the UK to better understand if NSAIDs, too, carried any increased risk to the heart.