Certain Painkillers May Increase Risk of Dying After Stroke

By Victoria Kim 11/19/14

Arthritic painkillers like Celebrex and Lodine have been linked to incidents of stroke.

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A new study has revealed that drugs such as Celebrex and Lodine are associated with an increased risk of death within a month after a stroke.

The researchers wanted to determine whether Celebrex and Lodine, two arthritis pain relievers known as COX-2 inhibitors, affected recovery from a stroke. The Denmark study, published in the journal Neurology, examined more than 100,000 people hospitalized for a first stroke between 2004 and 2012. They found that the use of Celebrex prior to hospitalization for ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, was associated with a 19% increase in risk of death within a month, compared to non-use of Celebrex. However, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

“Much of this result came from new users of the drugs, who were 42% more likely to die from stroke than those who were not taking the drugs,” said Dr. Morten Schmidt, lead researcher and Cardiovascular Research Coordinator at Aarhus University Hospital. For those taking Lodine, an example of an older COX-2 inhibitor, the risk of death was higher at 53%.

COX-2 inhibitors have been linked to an increased risk of both heart attack and stroke in the past. In 2004, the pharmaceutical company Merck pulled Vioxx, a popular painkiller, from the market because of this association. And in 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked Pfizer to stop selling Bextra—another drug used to treat arthritis pain, inflammation, and stiffness—for the same reason.

However, Celebrex, which is similar to these discontinued medications, remains available on the market. Dr. Ralph Sacco, Chairman of Neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said “patients at high risk for stroke should be cautious about taking such medications and should consult their physicians as to the best medications to treat inflammation and pain.”

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