Painkiller probe over heart attack riskHealth chiefs to examine painkiller safety risks

28 September 2006

Pills in a cup

European health chiefs are to investigate the safety of common painkillers such as ibuprofen.

The European Medicines Agency said it would look again at certain anti-inflammatory drugs after they were linked with an increased risk of a heart attack.

Millions of patients take these drugs to treat painful conditions such as arthritis. But some experts fear long-term use raises the risk of a patient suffering a stroke or a heart attack.

In June, studies showed that ibuprofen and diclofenac could double the risk of patients suffering a heart attack when taken in high doses.

Heart attack risk

Vioxx, which is part of a group of anti-inflammatories known as COX-2 inhibitors, was banned in 2004 after it was shown that patients on the drug were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as those not taking it.

The European Medicines Agency will give its opinion on the safety of the drugs next month as well as advice on how to deal with any safety concerns that may be identified.

In the meantime it advises patients to continue to use their non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as currently recommended.

Doctors and patients should always use the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration to control symptoms.

Patients who have concerns or questions should talk to their doctor or pharmacist.