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Safety Concerns Raised about Aleve

Dec 21, 2004 | LIVE FROM...CNN PHILLIP: Another health alert about a painkiller. This time, it's an over the counter medication. What you need to know about Aleving your pain.

PHILLIPS: Now to latest drug study raising life or death questions over hugely popular pain relievers. Today, it's naproxen, sold over the counter as Aleve. And that's being link to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen can tell us more.

You and I have been talking about this since we started.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: For days and days, right, absolutely.

Well, first it was Vioxx. Then it was Celebrex. And now there are questions about the pain reliever naproxen. As Kyra mentioned, that's sold over counter as Aleve. It's also sold as a prescription drug called Naprosyn. It also goes by other names. The active ingredient is naproxen.

What this study by the National Institutes of Health found was that people who were taking Aleve were 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke during the course of the study.

Now, there's two important things to remember about the study. First of all, the people in the study were taking two pills a day for up to three years. And also, the patients were 70 and older.

So it's important to remember not everyone takes Aleve that way. Many times people just take it, they have a headache or they twisted their ankle. And so they just take it for short periods of time.

And obviously, if you're over 70, then you're going to be at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes anyways.

Another interesting point in this study: the researchers also used looked at the drug Celebrex. Some of the people in the study were taking Celebrex. Those people did not have an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. That, of course, contradicts the earlier study done last week. So a lot of questions here.

PHILLIPS: So what are people to do?

COHEN: Well, the Food and Drug administration has specific instructions for people who are taking both of these drugs.

What they say is if you're taking Aleve, don't take it for any longer than 10 days. If you need pain relief beyond that, you should talk to your doctor.

The FDA also says if you're taking Celebrex, talk to your doctor about using other drugs instead. If your doctor says that Celebrex is really the drug for you, you should use the lowest effective dose.

PHILLIPS: All right. This is what I always use, ibuprofen. What's the difference?

COHEN: Ibuprofen. Also a lot of people know it as Advil. There have been no studies on that and long-term cardiovascular risk. But yesterday in a conference call a reporter asked the Food and Drug Administration, well, what about Advil? Do people need to be worried about that?

And they said look, we don't know, but certainly Advil is in the same class of drugs as Celebrex, as Aleve. They're all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and all of this data does raise questions about the entire class of drugs.

Nothing bad about Advil thus far. However, the FDA did say this entire class of drugs, now they do have some questions.

PHILLIPS: All right. I have a feeling this is going to continue.

COHEN: Go on and on.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

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