New research says ibuprofen, aspirin are bad mix for heart
By Emma Ross
Feb. 14, 2003
Fresh evidence adds to suspicions that ibuprofen could be dangerous for most heart patients because it can block the blood-thinning benefits of aspirin.
New research published this week in British medical journal Lancet found that those taking both aspirin and ibuprofen were twice as likely to die during the study period as those who were taking aspirin alone or with other types of common pain relievers.
Scientists believe ibuprofen clogs a channel inside a clotting protein that aspirin acts on. Aspirin gets stuck behind the ibuprofen and cannot get to where it is supposed to go to thin the blood.
Aspirin is considered the most important medicine for heart disease. Nearly all heart patients take it every day because it prevents the clots that cause heart attacks and strokes. Ibuprofen, which is in Motrin and Advil among other brands, is widely used for arthritis, aches and pains.
Scientists at the Medicines Monitoring Unit of Britain's Medical Research Council checked the medical records of 7,107 heart patients discharged from hospitals from 1989 to1997 with aspirin prescriptions and who had survived at least one month after leaving the hospital.
The researchers found that those taking ibuprofen were almost twice as likely as those taking aspirin alone to die by 1997. That meant that for every 1,000 patients treated, there were 12 extra deaths a year when ibuprofen was taken with aspirin.
For heart-related deaths, ibuprofen was linked to three extra deaths per 1,000 patients treated per year.
Experts say it is important to track both heart-related deaths and deaths in general because deaths are sometimes attributed to the wrong cause and heart-related cases may be missed. For instance, a death certificate may say the person died in a car crash when, in fact, a heart attack or stroke at the wheel caused the crash.
No extra deaths were seen in the groups taking the other types of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
"The message here is beginning to be 'go for something other than ibuprofen,' " said Garret FitzGerald, who was not connected with the latest study, but whose research sparked concerns about the combination just a year ago.
Dr. Tom MacDonald, who led the Lancet study, said taking the odd ibuprofen for a few days would not be a problem. It's regular use that seems to be at issue.