New research isn’t strong enough to conclude that naproxen is safer on the heart than other NSAIDs used by millions of Americans to treat aches and pains, a majority of federal health experts said Tuesday.
The controversy over the drugs, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, prompted the review of a massive analysis published last year. But despite leaning toward fewer heart problems with naproxen, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 16-9 against supporting the conclusion that naproxen has a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than similar anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
It has been estimated that more than 23 million people use NSAIDs to reduce pain, fever and inflammation.
NSAIDs also include prescription drugs like Celebrex, which is prescribed to treat arthritis.
Elliott Antman, M.D., president-elect of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, advises clinicians caring for patients to try other alternatives first.
“If appropriate alternative treatments aren’t available, use the lowest dose and for the shortest period necessary to control symptoms,” Antman said.
In 2011, research published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association said that even short-term use of some painkillers could be dangerous for people who’ve had a heart attack.