A decade ago the Food and Drug Administration warned that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. The FDA is now strengthening its warning on prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) labels.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), are commonly used to relieve fever and treat minor aches and pains such as headaches, toothaches, backaches, and muscular aches. Prescription NSAIDs are used to treat arthritis and other painful conditions. Nonaspirin NSAIDs can raise heart attack and stroke risk in people with or without cardiovascular disease, especially when taken in higher doses.
Recent data show that the drugs’ adverse effects can occur early in treatment, which has prompted the FDA to warn that there’s no period of use shown to be without risk. People who recently had a heart attack or cardiac bypass surgery are at the greatest risk.
How can you guard against stroke or heart attack risk associated with NSAIDs? The FDA suggests you take the following steps:
Read the Education Guide attached to your prescription or the Drug Facts labels on OTC NSAIDs for safety information.
Carefully consider whether the drug is right for you, and use the drug only as directed.
Take the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible.
Don’t take more than one product that contains an NSAID.
If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, consult your doctor before taking an NSAID.
Know that some NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, can interfere with the protective cardiac effects of a daily aspirin.
Seek emergency medical help if you experience symptoms associated with a heart attack or a stroke, such as chest pain, trouble breathing, sudden weakness in one part or side of the body, or sudden slurred speech.
Reduce your heart attack and stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.