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Pain meds used for colds, flu may raise heart attack risk

Research urges doctors to use caution when prescribing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications during a respiratory infection.

By Amy Wallace
Pain meds used for colds, flu may raise heart attack risk
New study shows that patients who take NSAID pain relievers for a respiratory infection may be at an increased risk of heart attack. Photo by Kzenon/Shutterstock

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Doctors at the National Taiwan University Hospital have found the use of pain relievers to treat respiratory infections may increase the risk of heart attack.

For the study, researchers analyzed insurance claims from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Program from 2005 to 2011 with data from roughly 10,000 patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack.

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The purpose of the study was to assess whether cardiac risk factors from an acute respiratory infection and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or NSAID, pain relievers combine to further increase the risk of heart attack.

Researchers looked at the patient's own risk for heart attack over time accounting for periods of respiratory illness and NSAID use and found a significant association with heart attack when both factors were present.

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The study showed there was a 3.4 times increase of heart attack in patients who took NSAIDs during a respiratory infection and a 7.2 times increase in patients who received NSAIDs intravenously in the hospital.

For patients with a respiratory infection who did not take NSAIDs, the risk was 2.7 times greater and 1.5 times greater in patients who took NSAIDs but did not have a respiratory infection.

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"Physicians should be aware that the use of NSAIDs during an acute respiratory infection might further increase the risk of a heart attack," Dr. Cheng-Chung Fang of the National Taiwan University Hospital and author of the study, said in a press release.

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Fang said that patients with cold and flu symptoms should consult their doctor or pharmacist before using NSAIDs.

The study was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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