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NSAIDS (e.g. ibuprofen) versus Paracetamol


Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are medications which, as well as having pain-relieving (analgesic) effects, have the effect of reducing inflammation when used over a period of time.


NSAIDs (e.g ibuprofen) can be used as simple pain killers (analgesics), but paracetamol is usually preferable, as it is likely to have less unwanted effects, and costs less. NSAIDs are most useful in conditions which cause inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects may take from a few days to three weeks to come on, so it is worth persevering for a while before deciding that a NSAID is not going to help.


Experts have said that common painkillers such as ibuprofen are linked to an increased risk of irregular heartbeat, and an increase in the chances of suffering a stroke, heart failure and death when they are prescribed long-term to treat painful conditions such as arthritis.


However, people taking them once a while are at minimal risk, say experts.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at more than 100,000 patients in 31 clinical trials.


A Swiss team analysed data from existing large-scale studies comparing use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib, etoricoxib, rofecoxib and lumiracoxib - with other drugs or placebo.


Most of the patients were elderly, with conditions like osteoarthritis, and were taking high doses of NSAIDs daily for at least a year.


The researchers found the medicine increased the risk of death from stroke or heart attack by between two and four times, compared with placebo.


The data:


• Elderly people with chronic musculoskeletal conditions have a 1% risk over one year of heart attack/stroke

• When taking NSAIDs, the risk is raised to 2-4%

• The trials included 116,429 patients

• In 29 trials there was a total of 554 heart attacks, in 26 trials there were 377 strokes and in 28 trials there were 676 deaths

• Source: British Medical Journal study


Simon Maxwell, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh said "However, some patients with debilitating joint pains may consider the small increased risk worthwhile when set against the improvement in their quality of life that these drugs bring."


"Anyone who needs regular painkillers should talk to their doctor about which drug is the most appropriate for them. There are lots than can be done to mitigate any potential risks."


Medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said: "This confirms what has been known for some years now - taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs on a regular basis increases heart attack or stroke risk."


In conclusion, experts say paracetamol is better than NSAIDS (e.g. ibuprofen) as it is likely to have less unwanted effects, and costs less. Nevertheless, ibuprofen is needed by some, therefore see your doctor for clarification and direction on the best painkiller drug to use.


Researched and Written By Elizabeth O. Animashaun




1. painkillers linked to increased heart risk, 12 January 2011 Last updated at 00:02

By Helen Briggs Health reporter, BBC News, painkillers linked to increased heart risk, 12 January 2011 Last updated at 00:02,

Accessed 29/08/2011


2. WalesOnline, Common painkillers linked to increased risk of irregular heartbeat, Jul 5 2011

Read More

Accessed 30/08/2011




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