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Ibuprofen May Hinder Aspirin's Heart-Helping Ways

Dec 19, 2001 | The New England Journal of Medicine

The results of a new study suggest that the painkiller ibuprofen may undermine aspirin's proven blood-thinning effects, which can protect against heart disease and stroke.

The study of healthy adults showed that when participants took ibuprofen and aspirin around the same time, the ibuprofen interfered with the blood-thinning powers of aspirin.

Dr. Garret A. FitzGerald, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues published their findings in the December 20th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites).

The researchers evaluated the interactions between aspirin and four other commonly used pain relievers: acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and three nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (which include Advil and Motrin), rofecoxib (Vioxx), and diclofenac.

Four study groups of six patients each were instructed to take aspirin in the morning followed by one of the other pain relievers several hours later in the day for 6 days. Next, participants took the pain relievers before taking aspirin. All underwent blood and urine analysis throughout the study period.

Aspirin is thought to protect against heart attack and stroke by keeping blood particles called platelets from sticking together to form clots.

However, FitzGerald's team found that aspirin's blood-thinning abilities were hampered when participants first took ibuprofen, whereas the other painkillers did not have this effect. In a second round of experiments in which participants took three daily doses of ibuprofen, the benefits of aspirin were blunted even though they took the aspirin first.

``If you take aspirin and ibuprofen, it is very likely that ibuprofen undermines aspirin's cardioprotective effect,'' FitzGerald said in an interview with Reuters Health.

He said that the millions of patients who take aspirin for its heart benefits should talk to their doctor when they need treatment for pain.

``This is a decision that needs a doctor's input,'' FitzGerald advised.

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