Unfortunately, when most of us think about the side effects of NSAIDs like ibuprofen, we think ulcers.
That’s not to say some 20,000 bleeding ulcers annually leading to death is something to be taken lightly, but it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The cardiovascular risks of NSAIDs began to appear in the medical literature some 5+ years ago, with the cardiovascular societies ultimately putting out the recommendation that anyone with a pre-existing cardiovascular condition should NOT take a NSAID.
That’s a pretty strong statement. And one that has largely gone unnoticed by both the rest of the medical community and the general public.
Overall, the number of patients who die prematurely every year as a result of taking something as “benign” as an ibuprofen or diclofenac, is likely uncountable because the use of this class of drugs is so massively high.
Closer to home, pretty much every single week I hear something about a patient who was told by his or her doctor NOT to see a chiropractor, or has a friend or coworker who would NEVER see a chiropractor or heard a news report that chiropractors are killing people on a daily basis with cervical manipulation (I personally just throw our practices’ dead bodies in the dumpster at the end of my parking lot).
And yet, these same doctors, these same friends and coworkers will prescribe and pop anti-inflammatories like they are candy with no knowledge of the numbers of deaths they cause annually.
This disparity in the perceived danger and the actual dangers is about to get a little wider.
In this particular study, we can add yet another side effect of NSAIDs to the already long list.
Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
Researchers looked across 5 studies to see whether NSAID use was associated with an irregular heartbeat. Here’s what they found:
- NSAID use was associated with a 12% increased risk for AFib.
- The risk was worse among new users, rising up to 53%.
The authors concluded that the risk of new onset AFib should be included in the list of known side effects of ibuprofen as well as other drugs in the NSAID class.
I can’t help but point out that, at the time of the writing of this article, no such additional life-threatening warnings have been applied to chiropractic care…