Common Painkillers Linked to Serious Side EffectsOctober 7, 2014 — Recent studies have raised concern about the risk of severe side effects from Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), including gastrointestinal bleeding, heart attacks, blood clots, and more.

Every year, millions of Americans use NSAIDs to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some of the most popular drugs include aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

This is not the first time safety concerns have been raised about severe side effects of NSAIDs. At prescription doses, these drugs are known to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Vioxx, a powerful NSAID painkiller, was pulled off the market in 2004 after studies found higher rates of heart attack and stroke in users.

A recent review from Australian health officials has found that these risks also apply to over-the-counter forms of naproxen, ibuprofen, and diclofenac. They warn patients with cardiovascular disease to avoid using NSAIDs due to potential side effects.

Last month, Rheumatology published a review of six studies and found an 80% increased risk of blood clots among users of NSAIDs. Conclusions were based on more than 21,000 cases of venous thromboembolism.

Blood clots can block blood-flow, causing tissue damage or death. The exact reason for the increased risk was not clear, but researchers suggested it might be caused by imbalances of prostacyclin and thromboxane in the bloodstream.

Other recent studies have found higher rates of gastrointestinal bleeding from concomitant use of NSAIDs with low-dose aspirin or COX-2 inhibitors (which are NSAIDs that target the enzyme COX-2).

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