Arthritis causes debilitating pain which can have a serious impact on the patient’s quality of life. It was estimated by experts that by the year 2040, over 78 million or 26% of adult Americans will develop this condition. Since arthritis is associated with pain that can be crippling, it is the single biggest cause of work disability among adults in the United States. Arthritis costs the country more than $300 billion in medical costs and lost wages each year.
Therefore, it’s understandable why people have to often turn to over-the-counter or prescription painkillers when it comes to dealing with pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the drugs most commonly prescribed for arthritis pain. However, these types of drugs have many side effects and many of the patients taking it are unaware of these effects which include difficulty in breathing, high blood pressure, kidney disease, allergic reactions, and gastrointestinal ulcers.
Additionally, in a study conducted by researchers from 14 of Europe’s leading universities and hospitals, it was found that NSAIDs are associated with a sharp increase in the risk in heart attack, This study was published in the European Heart Journal.
All NSAIDs – Including Both Newer And Older Varieties – Linked To Heart Attacks
For some time, researchers already know that newer types of NSAIDs, known as COX-2 inhibitors, are linked with an increase in heart attack risk, and as a result, many of these drugs have been removed from the market. The results of the European study showed that even older NSAIDs, particularly Diclofenac, has the effect of causing a heart attack in patients with underlying heart conditions.
Morten Schmidt of Aarhus University, who took the lead on the project, says that:
“This is worrying, because these older types of medicine are frequently used throughout the western world and in many countries available without prescription.”
Each year, more than 15 per cent of the population in western countries are given a prescription for NSAIDs. This figure increases with age. Sixty per cent of the adult population in Denmark collects at least one prescription for an NSAID within a ten-year period. Heart patients are no exception and previous studies have shown that up to forty per cent of Danish patients with heart failure or previous heart attacks are prescribed NSAIDs.
And, as bad as the consumption of these drugs is in Denmark, many other western countries consume NSAIDs on an even greater scale.
New Recommendations For Arthritis Patients
Because of the results of the study, new sets of recommendations were created by he European Society of Cardiology. These recommendations should be considered first by all doctors before prescribing painkillers to their arthritis patients.
Christian Torp-Pedersen, a professor of cardiology at Denmark’s Aalborg University said that:
“When doctors issue prescriptions for NSAIDs, they must in each individual case carry out a thorough assessment of the risk of heart complications and bleeding. NSAIDs should only be sold over the counter when it comes with an adequate warning about the associated cardiovascular risks. In general, NSAIDs are not to be used in patients who have or are at high-risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
In general, the study authors recommend that doctors should prescribe arthritis patients with milder painkillers and drugs with fewer side effects. There are safer options available which are free from chemical painkillers and make use of natural pain relief methods. One example is acupuncture, which fights pain without causing dangerous side effects.