They go by many brand names including Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Generically they’re known as ibuprofen and naproxen. But while the popular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may provide pain relief for a variety of medical conditions, according to two new studies, they may also contribute to hearing loss in women and increase the chances of a second heart attack.
In the first study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed more than 62,000 middle aged women from 1995 to 2009. Over 10 thousand of the women reported some loss of hearing. Researchers found that women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week were more likely to have hearing loss.
Women who took the ibuprofen 5 to 6 days per week had a 21 percent greater risk of hearing loss. The risk rose to 24% for those who used ibuprofen six or more days per week. The results for women using acetaminophen were similar.
The link between NSAIDs and hearing loss tended to be greater in women younger than 50, especially for those who took ibuprofen six or more days per week.
Researchers suspect the cause for the hearing loss may be due to a decrease in blood flow caused by NSAIDs.
“Possible mechanisms might be that NSAIDs may reduce blood flow to the cochlea, the hearing organ, and impair its function,” said study author Sharon G. Curhan, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Channing Division of Network Medicine. “Acetaminophen may deplete factors that protect the cochlea from damage.”
There was no association found between aspirin use and hearing loss.
The study is being published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
NSAIDs Raise Risk of Second Heart Attack
For heart attack victims, the use of NSAIDs could prove to be deadly. Danish researchers reported in the journal Circulation that the drugs increase the risk of a second heart attack or even death.
In their study, researchers examined hospital and pharmacy registries to find nearly 100,000 people, both men and women, who experienced a first heart attack from 1997 to 2009. They found that 44 percent of the patients had received at least one prescription for NSAIDs.
After ruling out other factors known to affect risk, researchers discovered that having a prescription for NSAIDs was linked to a 59% greater risk of death from any cause one year after a first heart attack. The risk rose to 63% after five years for those with a NSAID prescription.
Their analysis also showed that the risk of a second heart attack or of dying from coronary heart disease was 30% higher after one year and 41% higher after five years for those with a NSAID prescription.
The study’s lead author says these finding should serve as a wakeup call for doctors who prescribe NSAIDs to their patients after a heart attack.
“It is important to get the message out to clinicians taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease that NSAIDs are harmful, even several years after a heart attack,” said Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, a fellow in the cardiology department at Copenhagen University Hospital.
She added that “long-term caution with any use of NSAIDS is advised in all patients after a heart attack”.