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Warnings On Popular Pain Killers

Mar 23, 2005 | The American Heart Association is weighing in on the controversy surrounding the link between pain killers and heart problems, offering its own recommendations for patients taking prescription medications like Celebrex and Bextra.

Their recommendation is to use the drug with the fewest known risks, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains. That's very important and that may vary from patient to patient. So you need to think very carefully about your individual patient and what their risk factors are. Then physicians should limit the usage.

The concern is that patients are overdoing it with pain medication. Most of these recent studies linking cardiovascular disease to pain killers have studied usage over a long period of time. And the findings indicate that the risk of suffering heart problems increases with the length of the usage. So you can keep the chances of experiencing cardiovascular problems by limiting your exposure and taking a low dosage.

While studying the possibility that Celebrex and Bextra might be beneficial in cancer prevention, researchers saw an increased risk for heart problems. Two different studies one from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and another from the Texas Heart Institute found patients who took these drugs had an increased chance of suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem.

And back in February, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration ruled that the painkillers are believed to pose an increased risk for heart problems. But they claim that the benefits outweigh the dangers and therefore the drugs should stay on the market. A third drug, Vioxx, was taken off the market voluntarily by its manufacturer in September of 2004.

The American Heart Association is not saying to avoid these medications at all costs, but they do recommend searching for a safer alternative before relying on Celebrex or Bextra for pain relief.

The first choice should be to try an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. They are proven to be safe and effective for pain relief. But again, you need to ask you doctor about which ones are right for you.

Every drug has side effects, and you need to pay attention to the directions and take the doses recommended by the manufacturer. Remember, aspirin is widely recognized for its protective benefits when it comes to heart disease. That's becase of its blood-thinning qualities that help prevent the clogging of arteries. Low doses of aspirin already are widely prescribed to prevent heart attack or stroke in people who already have cardiovascular problems.

The American Heart Association says physicians really need to keep in mind the risk factors associated with Celebrex and Bextra. In addition to the patient, doctors should also be looking for safer alternatives and should weigh the benefits and risks before prescribing Celebrex or Bextra.

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