Harvard Heart Letter

Advice on using painkillers safely

Reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or death.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely used for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and calming fevers. Some low-dose NSAIDs are available over the counter—for example, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). This leads people to believe they are completely safe. But, since NSAIDs were first introduced, there were theoretical reasons to believe they might (infrequently) cause heart problems. This concern was amplified in 2004 when the prescription NSAID rofecoxib (Vioxx) was found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Since then, Vioxx and several related NSAIDs have been taken off the market.

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