Although life is really one of the greatest gifts a person can have, the fact remains that a lot of facets of everyday life can be painful. Work, stress, fatigue; all of these can weigh on us and typically, they manifest as aches, pains, and headaches.
So what do you do? Well, if you are like the millions upon millions of people who experience these unpleasant moments of life, you likely head to the medicine cabinet for your standard, run-of-the-mill pain reliever. And hopefully, a short while after, you begin to feel better, and you resume the hustle and bustle of your life.
However, a new study suggests that cheap over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers could lead to a significant increase in the risk of cardiac arrest – as much as 50 percent.
Diclofenac, a popular drug taken for back pain, headaches and period pains raises the risk by 50 percent; while ibuprofen has been found to increase the risk by 31 percent.
Heart expert Professor Gunnar Gislason, who led the study, said they should only be available in pharmacies. ‘”allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe,” he said.
Medically speaking, cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body – if it is not restarted with defibrillator the patient will die within minutes.
Although commonly thought of as the same as a heart attack – which occurs when a blood clot cuts the oxygen supply to the heart – cardiac arrest is much more serious and usually fatal.
The study, which was conducted by Danish researchers, analyzed 29,000 cases of cardiac arrest between 2001 and 2010, assessing their drug use in the preceding 30 days, and compared the data to use of medicines among the general population.
Professor Gislason, whose work is published in the European Heart Journal, said: “The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) are not harmless.
“Diclofenac and ibuprofen, both commonly used drugs, were associated with significantly increased risk of cardiac arrest.
“They should probably be avoided in patients with cardiovascular disease or many cardiovascular risk factors.”
He added: “I don’t think these drugs should be sold in supermarkets or petrol stations where there is no professional advice on how to use them.
“Over-the-counter NSAIDs should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities and in low doses.
“The current message being sent to the public about NSAIDs is wrong.
“If you can buy these drugs in a convenience store then you probably think ‘they must be safe for me”.
These findings are a clear indicator that we as a society need to reevaluate where we stand in terms of the OTC drugs we take. With new discoveries being made constantly, it only stands to reason that common treatments are revisited and retested for effectiveness and long-term safety.