It’s the first thing you might reach for if you have a cold or the flu — one of those OTC painkillers known as NSAIDS.
Even the Mayo Clinic has them on a list of things to do for the common cold that “can’t hurt.”
Unfortunately, they can hurt — a lot.
The results of a large study found that using these kinds of meds during a respiratory infection can significantly up your risk of suffering a heart attack.
It’s the latest warning for a risky group of commonly-used drugs that should be reserved for when you absolutely need them, not to pop every time you get the sniffles.
NSAIDs are taken by millions of people every single day. And since they come bundled in prescription drugs as well as OTC ones, using them routinely is something you might not think twice about.
But despite the fact that they seem so benign (and easy to get your hands on), if you want to know all of the risks these drugs involve, make yourself a cup of tea and find a comfy chair — because the list is a really long one!
And when you add the latest findings, you might just decide to skip these meds entirely.
What researchers at the National Taiwan University Hospital found after analyzing data on close to 10,000 patients boils down to this: Taking a NSAID during an episode of a respiratory infection can more than triple your risk of having a heart attack. And getting one of these drugs in an IV at the hospital can make that risk soar seven-fold.
In an editorial published along with this research, cardiologist Dr. Jacob Udell commented that treating fever, pneumonia or a bad chest infection with NSAIDS can be “potentially harmful.”
Well, I wonder how many potential dangers have to be uncovered before that changes over to definitely harmful. Because this group of drugs, which includes ibuprofen (the active ingredient in brands such as Advil and Motrin), naproxen (found in Aleve and Naprosyn), and even aspirin have had the alarms bells ringing for so long it seems as if no one if paying attention any more.
And that doesn’t take into account prescription versions such as Celebrex, Cataflam, Voltaren and Cambia.
So many dangers have been associated with these meds, in fact, that two years ago, even the FDA couldn’t ignore them any longer. The agency at that time required that a warning be added to the labels of both OTC and prescription NSAIDs that they can elevate the risk of heart attacks and stroke — and that’s even if you don’t have a cold.
On top of that, the FDA issued a report revealing that:
- they can up your risk of heart failure,
- your potential of getting a heart attack or stroke grows the longer you take them and the higher the dose, and
- you don’t have to be taking them long-term to be in jeopardy, as your heart attack risk goes up even during the first week or when they’re used only on occasion.
The agency’s review was summed up by a high ranking official who noted that “there is no period of use shown to be without risk,” nor do you have to have an underlying heart condition.
But despite such warnings and even this latest study, they’re still recommended as a first-line treatment for colds or flu.
What should be obvious is that their labels just aren’t big enough to tell the whole story. That’s why it’s so important for us to become our own consumer advocates and be aware of the real dangers of taking these drugs for every minor ailment.
“Common pain relievers may increase heart attack risk during respiratory infections” Infectious Diseases Society of America, February 2, 2017, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com