A large scale study was recently published which investigated the role non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) have in contributing to cardiovascular disease in patients with osteoarthritis (OA.) Previous studies have found a connection exists between NSAID’s and cardiovascular disease but this is the largest study of it’s kind.
NSAID’s are a class of drugs used to treat pain. Their primary role is to reduce inflammation but they are not a steroid. We can find these drugs commonly in the drug store as Ibuprofen or Advil and Naproxen or Aleve to a name a few. There are also versions that are given by prescription only, it is this prescription only use which was investigated in the study. This is because this study involved looking at medical record data of 30,972 people in British Columbia Canada. As a side note, isn’t it fun that under the national health system researchers could look into your file to do research. Basically this is a large study due to the number of patients they looked at as well as the length of time of 22 years. They could not account for over the counter NSAID use due to the nature of the study.
The patients with OA were 25% more likely than patients without OA to develop CVD. The researchers estimate that 41% of the increased CVD risk in those with OA was related to NSAID use. Since the authors were unable account for over the counter NSAID use they believe that their data is conservative and that the risk for CVD may be greater than their research found. The authors conclude; “Our findings suggest that a noteworthy portion of the increased risk of CVD among people with OA is mediated through their NSAIDs use.”
What does this mean to us? Well it means that we need to be careful in how we mange our pain. That there is an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including, ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke when we take NSAID’s. As with most drugs we need to take as few as is absolutely necessary. We have recommended patients take an OTC NSAID to cut their pain in order to get a good nights sleep or get through a work day. Never, though, would we recommend a patient use this as a daily treatment for aches and pains related to OA. According to this study, if you are doing that, it may add to your risk for developing CVD. I say add because there are many things we do to ourselves already which put us at risk for CVD. Lack of proper nutrition and inadequate exercise being two of the biggest things.
Stay away from taking NSAID’s on a daily or regular basis. Use them only when you have any significant pain that is disrupting your daily life. To take these regularly you are basically going to trade your pain for your heart health, maybe your life.