In the United States, naproxen and ibuprofen come in both prescription and over-the-counter versions while diclofenac and celecoxib are prescription only.
The researchers tracked more than 1 million healthy Danes from 1997 to 2005. Since low-dose ibuprofen is the only NSAID available in Denmark without a prescription, they could track and compare those who took the drugs, most of them daily for about two weeks, with those who did not. Risks from different painkillers varied widely.
Although the percentages of increased risk were large, the actual number of those affected was small. The researchers found:
- ibuprofen: A 29 percent greater risk of fatal or nonfatal stroke.
- diclofenac: Almost double the risk of death from heart disease.
- celecoxib: Results were inconclusive.
- naproxen: No greater likelihood of heart-related problems and a slightly lower risk of death, leading the researchers to conclude that naproxen could be a safer alternative to other such painkillers.
If you routinely take one of these painkillers, bring up the question of whether you need to continue and, if so, at what dose.
The study appeared in the June 8 online edition of the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
You may also like: Drug-free remedies for chronic pain. >>
Nissa Simon writes about health and science in New Haven, Conn.