Pharmacy: Painkillers endanger the heart

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Pharmacy: Painkillers endanger the heart
Pharmacy: Painkillers endanger the heart

Painkillers endanger the cardiovascular system

Some painkillers can endanger the heart and circulation. An Australian meta-study confirms the risk of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market in 2004, but other active substances still prescribed today could also be dangerous.

Patricia McGettigan from the Australian University of Newcastle and David Henry from the Newcastle Mater Hospital evaluated 23 studies on so-called cyclooxygenase inhibitors involving a total of 1.6 million patients. The key enzyme cycolooxygenase (COX) comes in two forms: COX-1 protects the lining of the stomach and intestines, while COX-2 can cause painful inflammation.

Previously developed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac block both forms, allowing them to attack the stomach lining. On the other hand, rofecoxib, which the US pharmaceutical company Merck sold under the name Vioxx, acts specifically against COX-2. However, since cardiovascular disease was a side effect in thousands of patients, Merck withdrew the drug on September 30, 2004.

But even older painkillers like diclofenac could damage the cardiovascular system and might therefore have to be taken off the market, the two scientists are now warning. Other drugs such as celecoxib or naproxen, on the other hand, pose only a low risk.

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