When you should never take this common painkiller

April 24, 2007
Volume 04    |   Issue 17

Most everyone takes some type of over-the-counter medication. But did you know that even seemingly harmless medications can cause problems in certain individuals? In fact, some of the most common drugs can have devastating, even fatal side effects.

You?ve heard, for instance, that taking Tylenol can lead to liver toxicity. Now you need to add ibuprofen to the list of over-the-counter medications that may not be as safe as you once thought.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that reduces the inflammation and pain from arthritis. You may know it as Advil or Motrin. If you?re at a low risk for heart disease, it could be safe for you to take. But if you?re at a high risk for heart disease, ibuprofen could be deadly. And your risk goes up even more if you?re also taking an aspirin a day to thin your blood.

The researchers in a new study looked for signs of heart disease in 18,000 people over the age of 50 who had osteoarthritis. Then they followed them for more than a year. They found that people at high risk for heart disease who take both aspirin and ibuprofen are at serious risk for heart attack or stroke. In fact, their risk was nine times higher than those who take an anti-inflammatory such as lumiracoxib (a common painkiller sold in other countries). Both ibuprofen and lumiracoxib are NSAIDs, but differ in how they reduce inflammation.

People who took ibuprofen had an additional risk factor. They developed congestive heart failure more than people taking lumiracoxib. So if you must take a drug to reduce your pain and you?re at high risk for heart disease, avoid ibuprofen! Try to use the safer anti-inflammatories, such as lumiracoxib.

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While ibuprofen might be safe for those who are not at risk for heart disease, I still think you need to find a better way to treat your pain. More and more information is coming out that suggests they?re not as safe as we once thought.

Lumiracoxib might help, but it?s tough to find in this country. It is sold in Canada, and in 20 other countries, which means you can order it legally over the Internet. If you would rather take lumiracoxib than ibuprofen, make sure you?re getting it from a reputable Internet source. Your pharmacist may be able to help you with this.

But for most people, drugs are not the answer. Consider safer anti-inflammatory products, such as turmeric, holy basil, and ginger. I?ve talked about natural anti-inflammatory substances in the past in my newsletter. If you?re a subscriber, you can find these on my website: www.womenshealthletter.com.

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